The Charlotte Hornets are in do-or-die mode for the rest of the regular season. After beating the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday night, they own the tiebreaker and currently have the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. They can think their first-time All-Star, LaMelo Ball, for a lot of their recent success. The former Rookie of the Year has been on a tear lately and it's happening at the perfect time. Through his last eight games, he's averaging 22.5 points, six rebounds, eight assists, and two steals a game. In that span, Charlotte is 7-1.
Ball has breathed life back into his squad after a rough patch in February. Back then, the team looked dejected and was losing gimme games against the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons. With all due respect, those are teams that they should beat handily. As you can imagine, that didn't sit too well with anyone within the organization. You can see and hear the frustration fuming out of James Borrego and his players. They needed to hit the reset button and the All-Star break allowed them to do just that.
The month of March has been a fruitful one for them. LaMelo Ball and Co. are playing defense at a higher level as a team. There has been a lot of paying attention to details on that end of the floor. From blitzing certain guys in pick & roll situations, better weak side help around the rim, and securing the rebound to limit teams to one shot per possession.
On offense, they have kept it simple. Borrego and has staff never had to reinvent the wheel, they just need shots to fall. Once it started raining, it began to pour for the Hornets. LaMelo Ball has spearheaded the charge in that category as well. He is shooting 48 percent from the field and 49 percent from three-point land in that eight-game span. Plus, his shot selection has improved. Sure he still takes those 40-foot bombs, but he is getting into the paint area more to hit his patented floater or open mid-range jump shots.
His game has improved from year one to year two. A sophomore slump is non-existent for him. He also joined some elite company a couple of weeks back, when he join LeBron James & Luka Doncic as the only players to average at least 15 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists twice before the age of 21.
LaMelo Ball's development this late in the season has spurred the Hornets to get closer to their goals of making the postseason for the first time since 2016. Of course, he's been playing out of his mind, but guys like Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges have been feeding off of his contagious energy.
Charlotte plays the Nuggets on Monday night, but has six games remaining in the regular season to solidify a Play-In or Playoff spot. The clock is ticking and the Hornets are ready for crunch time behind their young star.