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Hornets’ Defense Goes South North of the Border

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Making their first trip to Toronto in almost two years, the Charlotte Hornets had a night to forget – especially on the defensive end – on Tuesday evening, which ended with the Raptors cruising to a 125-113 home victory.

LaMelo Ball finished with a team-high 25 points and seven assists in the loss, while Miles Bridges added another 22 points. For Bridges, this marked his 25th 20-point game of the season, surpassing the total from his first three NBA seasons combined.

Toronto sprinted its way to a 76-61 lead at the break after shooting 62% and 59% from three (10-of-17) in the opening half. Charlotte started the third quarter on an 14-2 run, but the Raptors quickly regrouped and closed the frame on a 27-11 stretch to put the game away.

“Not enough defense in this game period,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “First quarter, got off to a poor start defensively and it carried through. We found our way in the third quarter. Not enough effort, not enough urgency. We got to correct that. Thirty-nine points (in the first quarter) followed by thirty-seven (in the second) is just too many.”

Gary Trent Jr. had a season-high 32 points for a Toronto squad that was without leading scorer Fred VanVleet and rookie sensation Scottie Barnes. Pascal Siakam nearly triple-doubled as well, putting up 24 points, nine rebounds and a career-high-tying 12 assists.

PJ Washington and Toronto’s Justin Champagnie were both ejected in the first quarter following a series of escalating skirmishes. Without Washington, Gordon Hayward and Jalen McDaniels, the short-handed Hornets struggled to match Toronto’s size and physicality, while shooting just 10-of-31 from 3-point range (32%).

“They made the [ejection] call and we have to adjust,” stated Borrego. “It affected our lineup and our rotations, but that’s part of the game. You have to adjust and adapt. They did a better job of that than we did. We got to perform better. Other guys have to step up. That’s the bottom line. Everybody wants minutes. Here’s your opportunity. Make the most of it.”

One player that did make the most of his opportunity was rookie James Bouknight, who finished with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting off the bench. “I thought Bouk was aggressive,” said Borrego. “I liked his game tonight. I thought he played well. I felt him out there. I thought there was urgency. Offensively, defensively, he was engaged.” Added Bouknight, “This is just a testament to the type of teammates that I have. They help me to stay ready and I have a coaching staff that believes in me… Kudos to them. I give them all the credit.”

The Hornets will now close out their all-road back-to-back and go for a season sweep of the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, Jan. 26 beginning at 7 PM ET.