Hornets preach defense before facing Cavaliers

NBA
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Hornets coach James Borrego was quick to credit his team’s tenacious defense in its latest encounter, a nice compliment to be certain and one that Charlotte’s next opponent hasn’t heard too often this season.

The Hornets will bid for their fifth win in six outings on Wednesday when they visit the reeling Cleveland Cavaliers, who have lost 16 of their past 18 games.

“Our defense is trending the right way. We can see that. We can feel it as a team,” Borrego said after Charlotte posted a 110-102 victory over the visiting Sacramento Kings on Tuesday.

“There’s a real ownership about our defense right now. Nothing easy. That’s really been the key to the last four-, five-, six-game run for us. There is just more attention to detail on that end of the floor, more physicality, more defense. We were on the boards in a big way.”

The Hornets outrebounded the Kings by a 62-43 margin overall and limited Sacramento to 41.3 percent shooting from the floor.

Charlotte was led by Malik Monk, who scored 14 of his season-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and added a career-best 10 rebounds.

Cody Zeller had 17 points and nine rebounds while Bismack Biyombo recorded 10 and 12, respectively, to collect his fourth double-double of the season — and third in his past five games.

“Every night we’re finding a different way to win,” Borrego said. “Right now, the beauty of this team is you don’t know who’s going to step up on any given night.”

The Cavaliers would like to see their defense step up after they were run off the court in Toronto, 133-113, on Monday. Cleveland, which has surrendered at least 130 points on four occasions this season, was outscored 29-4 in fast-break points by the Raptors.

“We tend to stand and watch rather than sending guys back,” power forward Kevin Love said, per Cleveland.com. “Because we emphasize spacing so much, when somebody drives into the lane and that shot goes up, teams are just running on us.

“(Monday) was a perfect example because they’re such a great transition team. (Toronto’s Pascal) Siakam is pushing it and that’s putting pressure on literally everybody — 4s and 5s, we’re crossmatched. I don’t think we work on our crossmatches enough because we are so focused on our own individual matchup.

“Probably helping the next guy is going to be the next step for us in making sure we cover for that next guy in transition. Then just keeping it real with each other — we need to get back.”

Collin Sexton scored 28 points in Cleveland’s 117-109 overtime victory at San Antonio on Thursday before adding 25 two games later against Toronto.

Sexton, however, averaged just 12.3 points against Charlotte during his rookie season in 2018-19. The Hornets won three of the four meetings.

The status of Nicolas Batum remains in question after the Charlotte swingman was scratched Tuesday for the fourth game in the past five with soreness in his left hand. He has been nursing the injury since breaking his middle finger in the season opener.

–Field Level Media

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