The NBA schedule-maker didn’t do the Charlotte Hornets any favors for the first couple of months of the season. Through the Hornets’ first 32 games, 20 have taken place on the road, with two more away contests coming next.
The Hornets are in the middle of one of the toughest stretches. As if their Sunday night game in Phoenix, a dreadful 137-106 setback to the Suns, weren’t bad enough, the Hornets now have to play another Western Conference contender, the Utah Jazz, on Monday night in Salt Lake City.
Making things worse for Charlotte, the Jazz will be extra hungry for a positive result after suffering consecutive home losses to the San Antonio Spurs (128-126 on Friday) and the Washington Wizards (109-103 on Saturday).
Utah had won eight in a row overall prior to the unusual slip-ups at home. Charlotte comes in having lost three of four games on its six-game, Western Conference trip.
“The goal right now is just to stay together, stay positive, stay optimistic, keep our heads up and move forward,” Hornets coach James Borrego said after the Phoenix loss.
Charlotte shot only 36 percent from the field and hit just 10 of 45 3-point attempts in the Sunday game.
Miles Bridges led Charlotte with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting, but he was the only Hornet to have a decent shooting night. The rest of the team made 26 of 84 (31 percent) from the floor.
Former Jazz small forward Gordon Hayward, two games removed from his 41-point explosion vs. San Antonio, scored just nine points against the Suns — and that was after a six-point showing Friday in a loss at Portland.
Phoenix jumped all over Charlotte in the first quarter, taking a 37-15 lead in Devin Booker’s return.
“It’s a grueling schedule, but no excuses there,” Borrego said. “We gotta get through it. This is a tough stretch. We knew that.”
The Jazz are still steamed about failing to their tight loss to the Wizards on Saturday night.
“We just made it tough on ourselves,” Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell said after scoring 32 points. “We got in some isolation, got stagnant a little bit.”
It didn’t help that starting point guard Mike Conley sat out the second night of a back-to-back, as he often does to stay well-rested. Utah, which allowed Bradley Beal to score 37 points, dropped to 0-3 without Conley.
“Mike always tries to make all the guys better all the time,” Jazz center Rudy Gobert said, “so obviously it’s always a little harder for everybody when he’s not out there.”
Utah coach Quin Snyder said his players didn’t seem to have “the same juice” as they have when playing more consistently.
Snyder isn’t too concerned, though, even though the Jazz didn’t come together in the end as they normally do. Utah also failed to get good looks at the basket — and key stops — at critical junctures on Friday and Saturday.
“This is the same team that won eight in a row,” he said. “The sky isn’t falling. But it’s important to look at how we played and own it.”
–Field Level Media