Hornets Rally to Wrap Road Trip on (Mile) High Note

Charlotte’s Bench Leads Charge in Erasing 17-PT 4th-Quarter Deficit for Win in Denver
by Sam Perley

More Coverage: Game Gallery | James Borrego Postgame | Kelly Oubre Jr. Postgame | PJ Washington Postgame

Christmas came a couple days early for the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night in Denver as they closed out a tough six-game road trip with a sensational 115-107 comeback win over the hometown Nuggets.

Getting off to a good start had been a challenge for much of the Hornets’ journey out West, but wasn’t really a factor in the Mile High City. Charlotte held a three-point lead halfway through the second quarter before Denver awoke with a 54-34 stretch to enter the fourth up 17.

Riding reserves Ish Smith, Kelly Oubre Jr., Jalen McDaniels and PJ Washington for the final 12 minutes, the Hornets outscored Denver by a staggering 38-13 margin in the closing frame to steal an eight-point victory. Ultimately, a Washington 3-pointer, a McDaniels dunk and then Smith blocking Nikola Jokić leading Smith’s 6th 3-pointer of the season at the other end all in the final 80 seconds proved to be the clinching sequence.

“Obviously [the bench] got this one done,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego after the victory. “They played with great passion, energy and it really started on the defensive end. You have to give Ish a ton of credit. When we put him in, we were down 17 and the game turned instantly. He started to drive-and-kick, his defense was fantastic. I thought Kelly was major there as well, PJ was fantastic and I have to give Jalen a lot of credit.”

Oubre led the Hornets with a team-high 23 points – 14 of which came in the fourth – while Terry Rozier (17), LaMelo Ball (16) and Miles Bridges (16) all scored at least 16+ points. Denver’s reigning NBA MVP Jokić erupted for 29 points on 13-of-34 shooting (career high for attempts), a season-high 21 rebounds, five assists and six turnovers.

Charlotte’s bench outscored its Denver counterpart by a 57-42 margin, which included an even wider 41-8 differential in the second half. This also marked just the second time in franchise history that the Hornets have won a game after entering the fourth quarter trailing by at least 17 points. The first such instance came at home against the Sacramento Kings on Nov. 23, 2015.

To say that the Hornets needed this one in Denver (and to win in the spirited manner that they did, no less) can’t be overstated, especially after enduring some recent blowout losses and failed comeback attempts. With both of their long road trips now officially in the books, the team has made significant progress during a tough stretch and is heading home a better team.

“I saw growth tonight, especially there in the fourth quarter,” added Borrego. “I thought we came out with the right mentality. We started off with the right mindset. We know the formula and now, we just have to go execute it for 48 minutes. We’re not there yet, but at least we get to go home now. It’s been a long grind. We’re going back home .500, but we have a lot of work to do and we know what we’re capable of.”

The Hornets will now be idle until Monday, Dec. 27, when they host the Houston Rockets beginning at 7 PM ET at Spectrum Center.

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