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Miles Bridges sounds off on carrying Hornets without LaMelo Ball, other key guys

Hornets, Miles Bridges, LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr., Cody Martin, Hawks

The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 130-127 without many of their key players available. LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, and Mason Plumlee were all out due to COVID-19 protocols, but the Hornets got the job done.

It was largely due to Miles Bridges, who dropped 32 points in the win. It’s his sixth 30-point game of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Hornets. He knew that the Hawks would try to key in on him on defense, but he made smart plays all game long.

“We know that we just need to play together,” Bridges said. “On offense and defense, move the ball, talk on defense, gang rebounding, everything. We just knew we had to play together to win.”

Even when double-teamed, Bridges had a response. He knows that teams will try to collapse on him when he drives to the hoop.

“I just need to rely on my teammates. If I get double-teamed and someone’s open, I just have to adjust,” Bridges said.

He only had four assists but he was able to relocate and spring loose for open shots within the mid-range area and from deep.

Bridges was the star of the show, but he had a lot of help. Kelly Oubre Jr. was the Hornets’ second leading scorer with 28 points. Gordon Hayward and Ish Smith chipped in with 18 markers apiece and combined for 10 assists. Cody Martin had a big game off the bench as well, with a career-high 19 points. He’s missed the last three games, but he was as effective as ever on both sides of the ball.

“If you don’t understand how much we’ve missed Cody Martin these last three games, you don’t follow our team,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “We win this game because Cody is out there 32 minutes and he’s plus 22. He just impacts our wins at a high level. It’s not a coincidence he comes back and we find ourselves in the win column again.”

The Hornets were on a three-game skid in their road trip before beating the Hawks. Despite being down four key players, the Hornets are still a dangerous team. Bridges can wreak havoc on both sides of the ball and he will likely have a bulk of the touches down the stretch with Ball and Rozier out. Let’s also not forget that the former Michigan State standout can continue to build his case for the Most Improved Player award.

If the Hornets can keep their turnovers down and shoot efficiently like they did tonight (46 percent from deep and six turnovers), they can hold down the fort with their key guys out.

“It’s a next man up mentality and we have some real dogs here and it showed tonight,” Oubre said.

The Hornets have the Philadelphia 76ers back at home on Monday on the second end of a back-to-back.