Hornets demolish Suns for 3rd straight victory
As Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego frequently reminds the public, offense is far from his team’s primary problem.
That couldn’t have been more apparent Saturday night at Spectrum Center, as the Hornets (22-23) steamrolled the Phoenix Suns (11-36) 135-115 en route to their third consecutive victory. Not only that, but in the process, Charlotte tied its season high for points scored, equaling the 135 they put on the Chicago Bulls in October.
After coming from behind against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, the Hornets instead opened up an early 16-point lead that endured for the entire game. And while All-Star point guard Kemba Walker led the team in scoring with 21, it was a balanced attack — eight players finished in double digits — that allowed the Hornets to race out to such a large lead.
Charlotte was comfortably ahead for most of the game before Phoenix cut the lead to 11 with about 6 minutes left. At that point, Borrego re-inserted his starters, who were able to pull ahead for good.
Now the question is whether or not the Hornets can carry that offensive momentum over to their next game against Indianapolis. If so, Charlotte is in line for its longest winning streak of the year.
THREE WHO MATTERED
DeAndre Ayton: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft got in foul trouble early and ended up leaving the game
early with a left ankle sprain.
Jeremy Lamb: He tied a career-high with five made 3-pointers, including two in the third quarter that gave the Hornets breathing room.
Bismack Biyombo: An and-one in the fourth quarter gave him his second double-double of the season, and he also had five blocked shots.
● The easiest explanation for the Hornets’ 21-5 run to start Saturday’s game? Charlotte shot 6for-7 to open play, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, compared to just 2-for-9 for Phoenix.
● Charlotte’s 71 first-half points are the second-most in any game this season, and its 109 through three quarters is the most all year.
● Eight Hornets finished with double-digit points, including Walker, Batum, Lamb, Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Michael KiddGilchrist, Parker and Miles Bridges.
● Rookie guard Devonte Graham, who recently joined the rotation after filling in well for an injured Lamb, only played the final few minutes of the game, but still managed to sink a 3-pointer.
● It was another classic night Saturday, as the team honored the only threetime All-Star in franchise history, Glen Rice. Rice is the only Hornet to ever lead the NBA in 3-point shooting, and he also won the 1997 All-Star Game MVP over current Hornets team owner Michael Jordan.
● This is just the Hornets’ second three-game winning streak of the season. The other came in early December, when the team defeated the Denver Nuggets at home, the New York Knicks on the road, and then the Detroit Pistons at home.
● In advance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week, both teams wore “I Have a Dream” warm-up shirts with a passage from Dr. King’s famous speech on the back.
THEY SAID IT
“I was impressed with Ayton (two weeks ago). His physicality inside, his skill level inside — he hurt us inside last game, so gotta do a better job on him.” – Coach James Borrego pregame on Phoenix’s rookie center DeAndre Ayton, who was the No. 1 overall pick in last summer’s draft.
“We’re all stealing. We’re all thieves really, at the end of the day.” – Borrego on coaches taking schematic tips from each other, like he and Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov do.
A+ OFFENSE: Over 50 percent shooting from the floor and 47.1 percent from 3 — like Borrego says, offense isn’t this team’s main problem.
B+ DEFENSE: Third wire-to-wire win of the season, but the hapless Suns were still able to put together several runs of 7 or more points.
A- COACHING: Borrego was forced to put his starters back in late to preserve the win, but a third straight game of defensive intensity — three straight wins, coincidentally — means he has his players in the right mindset.
The Hornets’ Bismack Biyombo dunks between the Suns’ Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton at Spectrum Center on Saturday. Biyombo finished with his second double-double of the season.