Coming off two bad losses, the Charlotte Hornets rolled into Milwaukee on Wednesday night looking to knock off a Bucks squad that was riding a seven-game winning streak. Led by LaMelo Ball, they went toe-to-toe with the defending champs until the final seconds, coming up just short in a heart-breaking 127-125 loss.
The past 36 hours for the Charlotte Hornets have been for a lack of a better word, chaotic. Shortly before departing for Atlanta on Saturday afternoon, starters LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Mason Plumlee plus reserve Jalen McDaniels were all placed into the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols, sidelining them for the immediate future.
These absences have been all too familiar in the league over the past two seasons and something that every team has had to deal with. On Sunday night, the Hornets confronted the adversity head on and in the end, were left standing with a 130-127 road win over the Hawks.
“The group was locked in. They believed number one,” said Head Coach James Borrego afterwards. “It wasn’t a mystery that we could go win this game. If everybody did their job, moved in the right direction, played with great heart and resiliency, we were going to get this thing done. There was no doubt about that. There was full confidence going into the game.”
A battle that featured 17 total lead changes, both sides were knotted at 112 with 5:26 left in the fourth. Following a Trae Young free throw, the Hornets went on a 12-5 run capped off by a Miles Bridges pull-up jumper to take six-point lead with a minute to go. Each team went back and forth in the final minute, but Cody Martin’s late free throws iced the Charlotte win.
Bridges (32 points) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (28 points) both finished with huge scoring outputs, Martin added a career-high 19 points and Ish Smith notched a season-high 18 points. Atlanta’s John Collins (31) and Kevin Huerter (28) both produced season-high point totals, with Young recording 25 points and 15 assists for the double-double.
“He stepped up huge,” added Borrego on Bridges, who had 13 points on 4-of-4 shooting in the fourth quarter. “He made threes, got to the rim. He’s made big shots for us all year. When you look at this season, Miles has made as many big shots as anybody. He made plays for his teammates. Miles was fantastic. He played with great poise and confidence.”
Charlotte, which also finished with a season-low six turnovers, had been riding a three-game losing streak prior to the triumph, which included bitter one-possession losses in Houston and Milwaukee. On paper, it looked like the team could easily be heading to a fourth consecutive defeat, but the next-man-up mentality clearly had other plans.
“It was about who wanted it more,” said Oubre. “We have some guys on our team who are just dogs. We will not be denied and it showed tonight. We had to step up, of course. Obviously, we’re missing a lot of our key guys, but we have a lot of talent on this team. It was just a blessing for us to go out there, compete and hold it down for our brothers.”
The Hornets will now begin a three-game homestand with the first of two consecutive contests against the Philadelphia 76ers starting on Monday, Dec. 5 at 7 PM ET.