From what could have been one of the most dismal points of the season, the Charlotte Hornets should have no shortage of confidence this week.
The Hornets go into Monday night’s home game against the Philadelphia 76ers coming off an unlikely result.
“The group is locked in,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “The mentality was right, and I saw it from the tip.”
Down four players because of COVID protocols, the Hornets pulled out Sunday night’s 130-127 road victory against the Atlanta Hawks.
Charlotte won despite the absences of LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels. All except McDaniels are considered starters.
Five Charlotte players scored 18 or more points in the Atlanta game, led by Miles Bridges’ 32 and Kelly Oubre Jr.’s 28. So the Hornets had plenty of players stepping up on the offensive end, a particularly important factor considering that either Rozier or Ball had been the team’s leading scorer in the previous three games.
“Everybody has been looking for more of an opportunity,” Borrego said, putting a positive spin on the situation.
Borrego said guard Ish Smith set the tone as he entered the starting lineup. There also was what Borrego called “fantastic” contributions from Cody Martin. They also received boosts from roster newcomers JT Thor and James Bouknight, called up to fill the holes.
“They have to be ready (Monday) night because their number is going to be called again,” Borrego said.
The 76ers should be well-rested in comparison to the Hornets. Philadelphia played three games in an eight-day period, winning two of those. The most recent-game for the 76ers was Friday night’s 98-96 win at Atlanta.
While the Hornets relied on lots of offense in their win against the Hawks, the 76ers took a different path. They outscored Atlanta 20-9 in the fourth quarter, marking the first time it limited an opponent to a single-digit total in a quarter in about 6 1/2 years.
Much of the production continues to come from Joel Embiid, who has double-doubles in six of his last 13 games.
“You can just see it in his eyes,” teammate Georges Niang said. “He wants to win so bad.”
Embiid is aware of the impact of COVID protocols because he missed about three weeks earlier this season.
This also is an important week for 76ers guard Seth Curry, who’ll be returning to his hometown. While his older brother Stephen Curry’s annual visits to Charlotte come with much fanfare, this also figures to be noteworthy for Seth Curry.
For Charlotte, the fallout from the reduced roster could be felt with another game just about 24 hours later. It isn’t an ideal time for a back-to-back assignment for the Hornets, who snapped a three-game losing streak Sunday.
It’s an unusual part of the schedule because the 76ers will stay in Charlotte for a rematch Wednesday night.
Fortunately for the Hornets, they had three days without games prior to Sunday night. They also might benefit from not having another road game until next Monday (Dec. 13), yet they probably won’t have any of those players back for the three-game homestand unless there’s an unexpected development.
–Field Level Media