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Hornets to face Kings, ready for tide to turn

Sportsnaut
Dec 5, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) celebrates after a dunk with Atlanta Hawks forward Gordon Hayward (20) in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) celebrates after a dunk with Atlanta Hawks forward Gordon Hayward (20) in the second quarter at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Amid a troublesome stretch, Charlotte Hornets head coach James Borrego thinks the time could be right to embrace rewards that could be on the way.

The Hornets will try to break a two-game losing skid on Friday when the Sacramento Kings pay a visit to Charlotte, N.C.

“The losses are painful,” Borrego said. “But the beauty is just in the journey and staying together and competing.”

The challenges are obvious for the Hornets, who have been without starters LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Mason Plumlee this week because of COVID-19 protocols. The trio has missed the past three games as has reserve Jalen McDaniels, while Ish Smith has been out for the past two games for the same reason.

After winning Sunday night at Atlanta 130-127, the Hornets returned home for games Monday and Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers. Charlotte lost 127-124 in overtime of the first game and then fell 110-106 in the rematch.

Borrego said the effort was commendable, particularly after the team used just eight players in Wednesday’s narrow defeat.

“That’s what they expect of each other. There is no drop-off,” Borrego said. “Our day is coming. We just have to stay with this. It’s going to turn for us. … These are the grind-out days. You just have to stay with it.”

Gordon Hayward had a season-high 31 points in Wednesday’s game. Borrego hopes it is a sign that the forward’s aggressive play will continue.

“He was looking to get downhill, to create,” Borrego said. “I love the mentality. He just has to stay with that.”

The game will be challenging for the Kings as well. Sacramento played Wednesday night at home, defeating the Orlando Magic 142-130 for their season-best third straight win. A cross-country flight to face the Hornets will begin a three-game road trip.

The offense clicked for the Kings on Wednesday, though there was a downside.

“I don’t want to try to win games where you’re giving up 130 points,” interim head coach Alvin Gentry said. “That put really too much pressure on the offense.”

Said guard Tyrese Haliburton: “It’s not something that we can continue to think that we are able to do.”

The Kings did have success scoring earlier this season against Charlotte. Sacramento drilled the Hornets 140-110 last month at home for its most-lopsided victory of the season. It was one of five wins this season by more than five points for the Kings.

With Gentry taking over for fired Luke Walton last month, it means this visit to Charlotte brings the native of nearby Shelby back to his roots. The Kings are 5-3 since the coaching change.

Friday night’s game is just the second for the Kings in an Eastern Conference venue this season. The first resulted in a 129-107 blasting of Detroit for the team’s second-largest margin of victory this season.

The game will be Charlotte’s last at home prior to Christmas. The Hornets are heading on a six-game road trip beginning next week.

–Field Level Media