Hornets Fall Short in Massive Comeback Attempt

Charlotte’s Defense Surrenders 81 1st-Half Points in Loss to Hometown Blazers
by Sam Perley

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Coming off an impressive road win in San Antonio and with star point guard LaMelo Ball finally back in the mix following a six-game absence, the Charlotte Hornets were eager to end a 13-game losing streak in the Rose City. The good vibes quickly went out the window though as the Portland Trail Blazers took advantage of a dreadful first-half defensive showing by the visitors on their way to a 125-116 win on Friday night.

Portland really started taking control midway through the first quarter, closing the frame on a 29-14 run to open up a 17-point advantage. The hosts continued to just pour it on from there, racking up a franchise-record 16 first-half 3-pointers on their way to an 81-55 lead at the break, marking the most first-half points ever allowed by the Hornets. Charlotte rallied in the second half and got to within six with 1:17 remaining, but ran out of time to complete the comeback.

“Overall, just our defensive mentality,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego, when asked after the game what area the team needs to focus on the most. “[We can’t] just walk and go through the motions defensively. For us to have any shot and not give up 80-point halves, you have to have some pride and effort behind it. That’s what I’m looking for.”

Ball finished with a team-high 27 points, Miles Bridges double-doubled with 14 points and a career-high 11 assists and Charlotte’s bench outscored Portland’s by a 58-45 margin. Damian Lillard (43 points) and reserve Ben McLemore (28 points; 8-of-13 from three) both had season-high scoring totals for the Blazers, who finished 21-of-47 from long range (45%).

Added Borrego, “It’s a long season. We can’t panic here, but we have guys we can go to who we trust on the bench. We want to stay in some type of rhythm, but if we don’t have it, next man up. We’re going to need that effort from the bench as we move into our next game. I thought Ish Smith (+15 in 13 minutes) was fantastic tonight. He got us back in this game just with his overall effort and energy. I thought he was ready to go tonight.”

Maybe some of the final result could be attributed to Charlotte finally returning to a normal rotation after having five players placed into Health and Safety Protocols two weeks ago. But nights like this are becoming a little too frequent as of late and when shots aren’t falling for the Hornets, they need to consistently rely on their defense to help carry the load.

“I thought the attentions offensively were in the right places to start,” said Borrego. “The shots, we just didn’t knock them down early and it set us back a little bit. I could feel we were a little bit out of rhythm bringing LaMelo back. Starters were just a little bit different, a little bit out of sorts, I thought. I expect a better effort next game. We’ve got a ways to go.”

Next up for the Hornets is the front end of an all-road back-to-back against the reigning Western Conference champion Phoenix Suns on Sunday, Dec. 19 beginning at 8 PM ET.

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