The Charlotte Hornets took down the Oklahoma City Thunder 113-102 without the LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and Malik Monk in the rotation. A lot of the team’s playmaking and scoring comes from those three, but the Hornets were able to capture their 26th win of the season and had seven guys score in double figures. However, Las Vegas only had the Hornets winning 26 games total for the whole season and coach James Borrego is not phased by the odds.
“We don’t care, it only fuels our guys. At the end of the day you have to be a good basketball team to win in this league and that’s what we have been all season,” Borrego said.
The Hornets are 3-2 on their current road trip and 6-4 in their last 10 games, so they have been playing .500 basketball consistently without their best playmaker in LaMelo. They have been a very steady team all season long and a huge reason for that is because Borrego is not afraid to change their lineups when needed.
For example, Jalen McDaniels got the starting nod in place of Hayward and put up a career-high 21 points in only his second career start. That also allowed Borrego to play small and start Miles Bridges at power forward and slide P.J Washington to center.
“Whatever is necessary for us to move forward, I am willing to do. Sometimes you have to take some risk for some rewards. I am not afraid to go there,” Borrego said.
The off-season additions of Ball and Hayward are exactly why this team has gotten to 26 wins quicker than Vegas expected. Ball came in and made an offensive impact immediately and was perhaps on his way to a unanimous rookie of the year award. His game allowed the Hornets to get out in transition and score easier baskets off of fast breaks. The way he has played throughout the season is enough evidence to believe that he will be a star in this league before we know it, as well as the franchise player for years to come. For someone who is not even 20 yet, we can already put the city on his shoulders.
Clearly, Vegas got it wrong, along with several other analysts that might have thought that Charlotte would be a bottom feeder in the Eastern Conference. It should not have been a surprise that this team is able to stay competitive every night.
They have a nice blend of young talent and a nice stable of veterans at their disposal. Through 50 games, they are 26-24, which is two games over .500. That is also good enough for fifth in the Eastern Conference. They have already surpassed Vegas’ expectations, so making the playoffs this year might make them lose their minds.