Hornets Defensive Issues Continue in Phoenix

Charlotte Starts Slow Again, Then Suffers Largest Loss of the Season to Suns
by Sam Perley

More Coverage: Game Gallery

After allowing a franchise-record 81 first-half points on Friday night in Portland, Hornets Head Coach James Borrego was adamant about seeing more defensive intensity and competitiveness from his team the next time it took the court. He’ll have to wait at least another day as the Phoenix Suns roared out of the gates on Sunday evening and cruised to a 137-106 home victory.

The hosts started things off by scoring 16 points in the paint and shooting 56% from the field in the opening quarter, giving themselves an early, sizeable 37-15 advantage over the Hornets. Charlotte righted itself in the second quarter before the Suns took complete control for good after the break for their 14th consecutive home win.

“The first five minutes, we had good looks,” said Borrego afterwards. “Didn’t knock them down and our heads dropped a little bit there. [We need] effort, communication, talk and trust [on defense]. At some level, there has to be action behind it. We’ve talked enough about the start. There’s no more talking here. It’s about action. Either I have to do something lineup-wise or they’re going to have to figure it out to create a better response in the first quarter.”

Miles Bridges led Charlotte with a game-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting in the loss. Centers JaVale McGee (19 points on 9-of-10 shooting) and Deandre Ayton (15 points, 15 rebounds and 3 blocks) paved the way for nine Phoenix players to score in double figures.

The Suns drained a season-high 20 3-pointers on 49% shooting and surpassed their previous yearly high for points by 11. This outing also marked the Hornets’ worst loss of the campaign and was also the second-most points they’ve allowed in regulation over the first 32 games.

A reoccurring trend, this result was just the latest example in a long line of poor defensive performances for the Hornets this season and the third alone on this current road trip. There is simply no way around it at this point – they absolutely have to start and defend better or nights like this are going to be popping up more frequently the rest of the way.

Added Borrego, “The goal right now is to stay together, stay positive, stay optimistic, keep our heads up and move forward. It’s a grueling schedule, but there’s no excuses. We have to play better. The schedule is going to clean up for us. We’re going to get fresh legs as we go and a home crowd is going to help us as well. We have to get home healthy, playing better basketball and pick ourselves up. Keep a positive mindset is the biggest challenge right now.”

The Hornets have a quick turnaround and will close out the all-road, back-to-back on Monday, Dec. 20 against the Utah Jazz beginning at 9 PM ET.

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