Bridges, Bench Unit Fuel Hornets 1st Road Win
Ever since Head Coach James Borrego took over the team in 2018, the Hornets have steadily gotten better and better at winning on the road.
“I love the mentality of this group. They just bunker in,” said Borrego on Thursday afternoon before the team left for Cleveland. “There’s something about being on the road together. This group just thrives in that environment.”
In order to become a playoff team this year, Charlotte knows it needs to keep improving in this area. So far, so good to start the 2021-22 NBA campaign, as the Hornets knocked off the Cavaliers, 123-112, on Friday night to kick off their first road trip of the season and also start 2-0 for the first time since 2016.
And as for the “bunkering down,” mentality Borrego was referring to, the Hornets did just that in the closing frame, using a 19-2 fourth-quarter-opening tidal wave to completely blow this contest wide open. Charlotte ended up scoring 34 total points off 19 Cleveland turnovers, with 15 off those points coming over the final 12 minutes of play.
“We put on another great run there, similar to the last game [against Indiana],” said Borrego afterwards. “The start of that fourth quarter, the energy, the defense, to get out, run, make plays for each other was just a great way to close out that game. This is a special group. If we can lock in, buy in, this group has a chance to do something pretty special.”
Miles Bridges finished with 30 points and seven rebounds, marking the fourth time in his career he’s crossed the 30-point threshold (all of which have now been on the road). Kelly Oubre Jr. added another 25 points in 27 minutes off the pine to lead a Charlotte reserve unit that outscored its Cavaliers counterpart by a decisive 45-27 margin.
“It was a total team effort,” added Borrego. “We didn’t get off to a great start. Our bench really got us back in this game. Ish Smith, Cody Martin and you have to give Kelly Oubre a lot of credit for just keeping us in that first half until we found our rhythm. You don’t know who is going to step up, but somebody is going to step up. I love our depth. I love our toughness.”
Added Oubre, “I’m water. I try and form to whatever situation that I’m thrown into and then succeed at it. That was the main goal. Continue to be who I am no matter what Coach does with the lineups or anything like that.”
Winning on the road is a challenge for every team in the NBA, regardless of the opponent. But having a multitude of different players like Bridges or Oubre who can go off on any given night can make things a whole lot easier. It’s something the Hornets will certainly hope to keep seeing as the season transpires.
Charlotte will now head to the Barclays Center to face NBA All-Stars Kevin Durant, James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon starting at 4 PM ET.