The bleaker the situation looks for the Charlotte Hornets, the prouder their coach becomes.
“Just the resiliency, the never-give-in (mentality), the fight, the perseverance and just the buy-in,” coach James Borrego said. “I love this group. I’m just so proud. I couldn’t be prouder.”
He might be filled with more pride if an extended road trip that begins Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks goes well.
The Mavericks have rare momentum coming into the matchup after thumping host Oklahoma City 103-84 on Sunday night.
They pulled that off without star Luka Doncic, improving to 1-4 in games when he hasn’t played. Doncic is also expected to sit out Monday night with an ankle injury, although Dallas could have Sterling Brown back after a four-game absence.
Jalen Brunson took Doncic’s spot in the starting lineup.
“I just told myself I got to be aggressive and play my game,” Brunson said.
The Hornets have taken a similar approach when dipping into their depth. They were without seven of their primary 10 players in their most recent game.
Charlotte has played five straight games decided by four points or fewer, winning two.
That’s an accomplishment given they’ve been without starters LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Mason Plumlee plus reserves Jalen McDaniels and Ish Smith (who has missed three straight games). Each of those players has been out because of the COVID protocols. Then, in Friday night’s one-point escape against the Sacramento Kings, P.J. Washington and Nick Richards sat out with illnesses.
“We could easily give ourselves an excuse and try to feel sorry for ourselves,” said Cody Martin, who matched a career-high point total with 19 on Friday night. “But in reality, we have more than enough. It’s tough because we’re going to need those guys but right now we don’t have them.”
Charlotte has had five different leading scorers in those games, with Ball, Miles Bridges, Kelly Oubre Jr., Gordon Hayward and rookie James Bouknight holding those honors.
Adding Bouknight to the list of key contributors is a bonus for the Hornets.
“I knew I was capable of this and I knew my coaches knew I was capable of this,” Bouknight said. “This is just a testament to our chemistry as a team. Having veterans and older guys standing by you and telling you to stay ready.”
The Mavericks lost four of their last five games before drilling Oklahoma City. In that game, reserves accounted for 54 Dallas points, so the Mavericks are showing depth as well.
“Just wanted to come out there with a sense of urgency,” said Moses Brown, who scored 15 points Sunday.
This game begins a stretch of four home games in a five-game span. That might not mean much for the Mavericks, who’ve lost their last five home games.
It has been almost a month since Dallas won a home game by defeating the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 15.
This month, the Mavericks are 3-4 overall.
This begins a six-game road trip for the Hornets before Christmas. Charlotte and Dallas won’t have a rematch until March 19 in Charlotte.
–Field Level Media