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Preview: Suddenly short-handed Heat to face surging Hornets

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Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside did not travel while Charlotte looks to be bolstered by the return of Kemba Walker

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat (18-23) are set to face the Charlotte Hornets (17-25) one night after suffering another home loss at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Hornets, seemingly done in by a slow start that they, a playoff team a season ago, did not expect, have won seven of their last eight games and are within reach of the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. This is the third meeting between the clubs, with the teams so far 1-1 against each other.

Miami suffered a blow to their frontcourt when promising big man Hassan Whiteside suffered a Grade-1 ankle sprain in the 2nd quarter of the game against the Thunder. Considering the manner in which the ankle rolled, Miami is fortunate it's not worse. Regardless, Hassan was left in Miami to recuperate and Miami will likely ask Chris Andersen to be the fill-in starter again, with Udonis Haslem playing the back up center minutes.

In addition, forward Luol Deng will also stay at home, recovering from an illness. He gave it a go last night despite not feeling well, but didn't have much impact on the game. Deng scored 26 points in the last matchup against the Hornets so he'll be sorely missed for this game, but shouldn't miss much more time.

The Hornets have been winning games without their big stars, but look to get them both back for this matchup. Al Jefferson has missed three weeks with a groin injury, but returned against the Timberwolves and came off the bench while leading scorer Kemba Walker is probable after missing two games with a knee injury. He's averaged a whopping 27 points per game in the month of January while Jefferson is averaging 24.8 points and 13.2 boards in his last six games against Miami.

Tipoff is set for 7:00 PM