Hor­nets de­mol­ish Suns for 3rd straight vic­tory

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY BRENDAN MARKS [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

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.

OB­SER­VA­TIONS

● 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.

WORTH MEN­TION­ING

● 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.

RE­PORT CARD

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.

CHUCK BUR­TON AP

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.

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