I don’t want to overreact to a small sample size, but after watching 96 minutes of Hornets basketball since adding the players acquired at the trade deadline into the lineup, it’s safe to say this team is a juggernaut that may never lose again.
Monday night the team took down the 30-25 Indiana Pacers and largely stifled the league’s #1 offense, 111-102 in Spectrum Center. The Hornets improved to 12-41 on the season, but more importantly, 2-0 with Grant Williams, Vasilije Micic, Seth Curry, Tre Mann, and Davis Bertans in the lineup.
All joking aside, for the second straight game, the Hornets looked like a cohesive, competent, and downright competitive basketball team. That may seem like a low bar, but it’s not one the team was clearing on any semblance of a consistent basis at any point this season.
Notable injection of positive energy
Right off the bat, the energy with this team is completely different, and it’s palpable as soon as the game starts. The level of effort is higher on both ends, and it’s especially been noticeable on defense; which has been a breath of fresh air.
Williams has done a great job thus far, anchoring the defense, and playing a lot of small-ball center, including to close out the game. That lineup found success going five out on offense and throwing the Pacers for a loop.
The team suddenly has a bunch of shooting and can throw out some ridiculous floor spacing. This has allowed Miles Bridges and Brandon Miller much more room to operate and they’re finding the lane open for a change. When things do bog down they’ve got several options to kick it outside.
Along with the defense, Grant led the way with 21 points, while Seth Curry had 18 points in just 18 minutes on 7/11 shooting, and Tre Mann had a near triple-double with 11 points, 9 rebounds, and 7 assists. Micic was also integral for the Hornets in this game, helping to close it out with some big assists down the stretch.
But more than anything else, they helped accentuate the game of the two stars, Bridges and Miller who helped take the team home down the stretch and close out the win. Bridges nearly had a triple-double himself with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
Chip on the shoulder
It really is like night and day watching this team. The guys who were brought in all have a chip on their shoulders, as they were basically discarded by their teams; essentially a group of misfits. But they’re all proud professionals who want the same thing.
They’re playing unselfishly and with the goal of winning in mind. It helps that most of these players are proud veterans who seem to have immediately brought the right kind of culture to Charlotte. Again, I don’t want to overstate things after two games, but the players and the building were buzzing on a Monday night as they held the highest-scoring team in the league to 102 points.
It’s been a long time since we saw this team win with defense and it makes all the difference in the world. All of these new players look great so far in their brief stints, plus Bridges, Brandon Miller, Cody Martin, and Nick Richards have looked good. It’s been a promising couple of games.
There is a chance that none of these newly added players are around for long, or ever become a part of the next winning Hornets team. But they can help lead the way forward in Charlotte and be the start of a new era, one that does things the right way. Having them around may not ultimately impact winning this year, but the overall impact may be much larger.
Sadly, this is only the team’s second time winning back-to-back games all season, and the first since November. They’ll try to win three straight for the first time this year on Wednesday when they host the Hawks.