Hornets end 16-year drought behind dominant defensive performance

Feb 25, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) fouls Nick Richards (4)
Feb 25, 2024; Portland, Oregon, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons (1) fouls Nick Richards (4) / Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

The Hornets got right back to their winning ways on Sunday night, defeating the Trail Blazers 93-80 in Portland. The team improved to 5-1 in their last six games, bouncing back from a road loss to the Warriors that snapped a four-game winning streak.

There was also a bit of history on the night as Charlotte hadn’t won in Portland since all the way back in 2008. They snapped a 15-game losing streak spanning over 16 years. This comes on the heels of Thursday night’s win when the team ended a losing drought in Utah that dated back to 2006.

This has already been a great road trip for the Hornets, exorcizing demons in multiple cities, and breaking streaks that started long before any of the current Hornets were in the league. And make no mistake, the team is doing it with their defense.

The Hornets' defense held the Blazers to just 80 points on the night, including just a 34-point first half. Both of those marks are by far the fewest the Hornets have allowed all season, and the 80 points given up is the fewest for a Hornets team since 2020.

The Hornets had a great night inside the paint, led by Nick Richards who had 21 points and 10 rebounds, dominating on both ends, providing great rim protection with 3 blocks to go along with 2 steals as well.

Miles Bridges added 18 points and 10 rebounds, Brandon Miller tallied 17 points, and Cody Martin had a great two-way effort with 11 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. Vasilije Micic came on late again and helped close out the way, he was instrumental off the bench with 11 points and 7 assists.

The defense was excellent across the board as they had 12 steals and 6 blocks as a team, plus held the Blazers to 35% shooting on the night and an absurd 9% on threes, 3/32 for the night. According to StatMuse, that’s only the sixth time in NBA history that a team has attempted 30 or more three-pointers and made 3 or fewer.

Believe it or not, it actually could have been even worse for the Blazers as they started off just 1/26 from beyond the arc and didn’t make their second three-pointer of the night until there were just over two minutes to play and the game was all but salted away.

Part of this dominant win was the Blazers' incompetence, but the Hornets played a really good basketball game. They have to clean up the glass, as they allowed 22 offensive rebounds - WAY too many - and they have to take better care of the ball - 14 turnovers is too high. But overall this was a really positive performance yet again, especially on the defensive end.

I’m trying not to beat a dead horse but it really is like night and day since the trade deadline watching this team on defense. It’s amazing what a few veterans and professionals can do to an entire organization. They’ll get a much tougher challenge next time out on Tuesday night as they take on the 37-21 Bucks in Milwaukee.