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HORNETS VS. MAGIC

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MONDAY JANUARY 20 5:00PM

Perley’s Press Pass: Theme of Hornets’ Season Thus Far? Late-Game Drama

by Sam Perley

The line between winning and losing in the NBA can be the thinnest (and sometimes cruelest) of margins to navigate. Teams can compile 47-and-a-half minutes of solid to great basketball and a play or two here and there can be the ultimate difference. Likewise, opponents can do the same thing, turning what could have been a likely loss into an exhilarating victory.

This year, more than any other in recent memory, the Charlotte Hornets have been involved in a seemingly large number of down-to-the-wire contests. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but in the end, what’s most important is that this young team is putting itself in position to emerge victorious more often than not.

“We’re right in the mix. We’re in the arena fighting, scrapping and clawing,” said Coach Borrego prior to leaving for Utah last week. “These are stressful moments, but that’s when you really grow and get better in the heat of competition. When the stress level is high, the anxiety is high, that’s when you learn and grow. To step back the next day and watch it, is even more growth. So, if we never put ourselves in those positions, we will only grow at a minimal level. To be in all these games, it’s only going to make us better down the road.”

Through Sunday’s outing in Phoenix, the Hornets have played in 24 clutch-time games this season, tied for the fourth-highest total in the league (clutch time is defined as the score within five points with five or fewer minutes to go). Charlotte is 12-12 in such outings (.500 winning percentage is 15th in the league), after going 18-21 last year (21st in games played and 20th in win percentage).

One of the squad’s biggest challenges this season has been putting together a full 48 minutes of consistent basketball. With the way the roster is currently constructed, a couple of bad stretches over the course of game way heavier for the Hornets than they would say a Milwaukee Bucks or Los Angeles Lakers team.

“They’re human beings. That’s just the bottom line,” Borrego added. “Every team I’ve ever been with, it’s the same story. I think it comes down to the team that can play more perfectly with more aggression for 48 minutes. Other teams are going to make runs and shots in this league. Can you just be more perfect and have more aggression than your opponent can for 48 minutes? That’s the challenge. I think it’s human nature. You want to relax, you want to let go, you want to take breath and in this league you can’t, especially when your margin of error is so small.”

Their 15-27 record isn’t lighting the world on fire, but the Hornets are surely ahead of where many projected they would be prior to Opening Night. Whether they’re ending in euphoria or heartbreak, all these close games for the Charlotte Hornets are laying the groundwork for the future.

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