November 15, 2021
Photo: Matt Kelley / AP
The roller coaster that has been the 2021-22 Charlotte Hornets is on its way back up after back-to-back wins at home against the Knicks and Warriors secured the second three-game winning streak of the season. LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges are playing like All-Stars, veterans Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier are producing at a consistent level and it’s led to some great basketball– most importantly, wins. Here’s how it all went down.
A week in review
After a rough game by his own standards against Memphis, Bridges responded against the Knicks with 24 points on 8-17 shooting with four rebounds and four assists, including a dominant stretch in the fourth quarter that played a large part in the Hornets earning the win. Ball nearly had a triple-double with 12 points, a career-high 17 rebounds and nine dimes, plus five steals. Hayward chipped in with 22 points, seven assists, five rebounds, and two steals on 9-17 from the floor while Rozier added 18 points. In Kemba Walker’s first game with the Knicks in Charlotte, he put up 13 points finishing with 26 points.
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Sunday’s win over the Warriors was the most impressive game of the season– Charlotte’s defense (mostly Cody Martin) limited Stephen Curry to a 3-13 night from long range and a lackluster (by his standards) 24 points on 22 field goal attempts. The Hornets match up well with the small-ball lineup of the Warriors, who also don’t have a big man with imposing size and rim protection ability. The high-powered offense led by Ball, Bridges and Rozier played well for a full 48 minutes. Bridges had 22 points and eight boards while Ball added 21 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. After a rough first half, Rozier came through in the second half finishing with 20 points on 7-14 shooting, and a crucial jump ball against Draymond Green to secure the win. Despite being ejected, Kelly Oubre Jr. put up 10 points and four rebounds off the bench while Martin added 12 points and eight rebounds on top of his hounding defense.
What’s ahead for the Hornets
The Washington Wizards come to town on November 17 after a much-needed two days off. The Indiana Pacers return on November 19 to finish up the homestand before the Hornets fly to Atlanta for a Saturday night matchup with the Hawks.
Washington is a strong defensive team, especially at the wing and forward positions, and they are currently fourth in defensive rating (102.4 points per game). The Hornets have struggled with teams that defend well, having lost to the Cavaliers, Clippers, Heat and Warriors (on November 3), all ranked in the top 10 in defensive rating. Bradley Beal is still shooting just 25 percent from deep (6.4 3-point attempts per game) on the year, but Kyle Kuzma is at 37.8 percent on 6.7 attempts per game, both career-highs for Kuzma. Montrezl Harrell is playing well in his first year in Washington and last year’s first-round draft pick Deni Avdija is improving in his limited role off the bench.
The Pacers dropped the season opener to the Hornets, and then lost five of the next six before ripping off five wins in the last seven games. Myles Turner is yet again leading the NBA in blocks per game (3.4), and he’s knocking down 44.1 percent from 3-point range on 4.9 attempts. Fortunately for the Hornets, Malcolm Brogdon has missed some games with injury, and TJ Warren hasn’t been healthy either.
The Hornets have yet to face the Hawks this season, who are having a pretty dismal start after an Eastern Conference Finals run in the 2020-21 playoffs. They began the year 3-1 but have since lost eight out of 10, including a six-game skid that ended against the Milwaukee Bucks. Trae Young is shooting a career-high 38.7 percent from downtown but only 54 percent at the rim, the lowest mark since his rookie season. Much like the Hornets, the Atlanta Hawks are also not an intimidating defensive team currently ranking 28th in the league.
What to watch for this week
For a period of time, the Hornets held the league’s worst defensive rating, but after winning three-in-a-row they climbed up to 27th (110.6). In all three wins, Charlotte held their opponent under 108 points– the last time that happened was when they defeated Brooklyn 111-95 on October 24. Mason Plumlee is settling in as the team’s anchor and interior presence, and the reintroduction of the occasional zone defense has been an interesting wrinkle to monitor as well.
— CLTure® ( culture ) (@CLTure) November 15, 2021
Per Inpredictable’s NBA statistics, the Hornets rank first in the NBA in seconds per possession following an opponent’s made shot (15.9), meaning they run the floor harder off of makes than any team in the league, and they’re third in points per possession (1.09) in that setting. The Hornets can easily take advantage of defenses that aren’t set following makes with Ball’s penchant for hit-ahead passes, the combined transition playmaking of Bridges, Hayward and Rozier, and the lane-filling and smart, athletic cuts to the rim from Martin, Jalen McDaniels and Oubre Jr. When the Hornets are clicking, there are few teams in the NBA this season that are more exciting on a possession-by-possession basis.
Check out the remaining 2021-22 Charlotte Hornets schedule.