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Steve Clifford sounds pessimistic about Al Jefferson, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Cody Zeller returning to Hornets this season

Milwaukee Bucks v Charlotte Hornets

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 29: Teammates Lance Stephenson #1, Cody Zeller #40 and Al Jefferson #25 of the Charlotte Hornets react after a call against the Milwaukee Bucks during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on October 29, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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The Hornets are playing the Heat right now in a key matchup between teams trying to stay in the playoff race.

A win wouldn’t put the Hornets (11th in the Eastern Conference, 1.5 games out of playoff position) into postseason position – and it wouldn’t give them a roster capable of taking the team over the hump.

Charlotte is playing without Al Jefferson, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist and Cody Zeller, and that could remain the case.

Joseph Goodman of The Miami Herald:

Even if Jefferson gets back on the court, he’ll probably be limited. Not having Zeller to space the floor or Kidd-Gilchrist to relieve pressure on defense would only make Jefferson’s task harder.

The Hornets got off to a horrid start, and it seemed Lance Stephenson would undo them. That they’re still in playoff contention speaks to their resolve and the East’s wretchedness.

But win or lose against Miami tonight, it seems Charlotte is running out of gas as the finish line approaches.