The Charlotte Hornets have something to build on. With just one game before the All-Star break, they’ll take momentum any way they can get it.
And they’re about to encounter a team in worse shape than themselves Wednesday night as the visiting San Antonio Spurs are mired in a 13-game losing streak.
“Now it’s back to the drawing board,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said in trying to mold a young team. “That’s what the goal is to develop them as individuals and understand how they have to play as a group. So it’s a whole different set of challenges.”
Charlotte not only ended a seven-game skid by topping the Atlanta Hawks 144-138 on Monday night, but did so in style.
“We stayed poised, that’s something we’ve been talking about,” Hornets guard Terry Rozier said.
The Hornets had their best offensive performance of the season in terms of points (144), 3-point baskets (20), 3-point percentage (54.1), field-goal percentage (63.1) and assists (34).
It was the second-largest single-game point total in team history.
But perhaps the Hornets discovered something else that might work if they can do it again. That’s playing with a lead.
“Playing from ahead is always important,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “We had a bunch of guys that played well.”
Third-year guard LaMelo Ball has moved into seventh place on the Hornets’ all-time list for 3-pointers with 435. He has a franchise-record 47 consecutive games with at least one 3.
“The one thing about ‘Melo, he’s a gamer,” Rozier said. “He can be having any type of day. It could be good or bad. Once he’s in that game, he lets everything go and he just hoops. I think we can all appreciate that.”
Oddly, the Hornets were also talking about a defensive play. Rookie center Mark Williams rejected a shot from Atlanta star Trae Young during a key moment.
“He has great hands and agility for a man his size,” Clifford said. “A big-time play.”
The Spurs will play their sixth consecutive road game before heading to the All-Star break. Their latest malfunction came with Monday night’s 117-109 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Before the layoff, the Spurs have another chance to monitor the development of rookie guard Malaki Branham. He has averaged 17.2 points per game in seven February games. The 19-year-old has made an impression on Popovich.
“I think more than anything, his demeanor and his pace, he really is comfortable on the court more so than most people his age would ever think about being,” Popovich said. “He’s not in a hurry. He’s not intimidated by anything.”
Keldon Johnson has led the Spurs in scoring in four of the last five games. The exception during that stretch came when Devonte Graham, a former Charlotte guard, scored 31 points in a double-overtime game at Detroit.
These teams haven’t met since the season opener when the Hornets won 129-102 at San Antonio. For Charlotte, that game included 13 points from Kelly Oubre Jr., who has been out with a hand injury, and 12 points from Mason Plumlee, who was traded last week.
–Field Level Media