Plenty of injury challenges as Hornets face Thunder


Plenty of injury challenges as Hornets face Thunder

Heading into Wednesday night’s meeting in Oklahoma City, Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego and Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault have had to do plenty of playing around with their lineups.

Borrego’s latest challenge is the loss of Gordon Hayward, who suffered a sprained right foot in Friday’s win at Indiana and is expected to be out for at least four weeks.

The injury left the Hornets without three of their top five leading scorers. In addition to Hayward, who is averaging 19.6 points a game, Charlotte is without rookie LaMelo Ball (15.9 ppg; fractured wrist) and Malik Monk (13.1; sprained right ankle).

“It’s going to be different lineups and it’s going to be tinkering throughout each game. I’m probably going to have to play even more small now to find offense,” Borrego said recently. “Obviously, LaMelo and Malik were two guys generating a ton of offense for us — on their own, getting downhill, creating for us.”

The Hornets, who averaged nearly 112 points a game through March, are averaging 96.3 over their past three contests and twice have lost without reaching 90 points in their two lowest-scoring performances of the season.

“We’ve got to find some rhythm offensively. It’s just going to take time,” Borrego said. “We’re a work in progress. This is a great challenge for us. But we move forward.”

For the Thunder, there have been plenty of injuries but also other factors, including the trade of Hamidou Diallo, the shutting down of Al Horford, the removal of Mike Muscala from the rotation, and the recent waiving of Justin Jackson.

Upon Jackson’s departure Monday, Oklahoma City quickly announced the signings of Justin Robinson to a 10-day contract and Jaylen Hoard to a two-way deal. And that very night, Robinson played 24 minutes and Hoard 22 in a 132-108 loss to Detroit. It was a career high in minutes for both players.

“We don’t know them intimately,” Daigneault said. “They don’t know us. For them to play the minutes they did, we needed them.”

And the Thunder figure to continue to need them.

It’s likely that none of the Thunder’s starters and just two of the 10 players who saw action in the season’s first meeting between the teams — a 109-107 Oklahoma City win Dec. 26 in Charlotte — will be available for Wednesday’s second and final meeting between the clubs.

The latest injured player for the Thunder is Kenrich Williams, who left Monday’s loss to the Pistons early in the fourth quarter with a left-ankle sprain.

Williams joins Luguentz Dort and Isaiah Roby among the Oklahoma City players who recently have suffered injuries. Both Dort and Roby are in the NBA’s concussion protocol.

The Thunder have dropped three in a row and six of their past seven.

The game is the fifth in a six-game road trip for the Hornets, who are 2-2 on the trip.

–Field Level Media

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