The Charlotte Hornets qualify as one of the hottest teams in the NBA while on a four-game winning streak that they take into Monday night’s matchup against the visiting Detroit Pistons.
Only two teams held longer winning streaks heading into play Sunday, and with the Pistons the only team in the Eastern Conference with a worse record than Charlotte, the Hornets will sample the role as favorite for Monday’s game.
“Just keep it going,” Charlotte guard Kelly Oubre Jr. said.
The Pistons will arrive with a four-game losing streak, although a chunk of their rare success this season has come when facing the Hornets.
The Hornets won their final two games prior to the All-Star break and came back to action and picked up where they left off, winning Friday night on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves and Saturday night at home against the Miami Heat.
“I do think we’re playing better defensively,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
It has helped the Hornets that Oubre has returned to action following an hand injury that cost him nearly two months of the season. Rookie center Mark Williams continues to emerge in a heightened role since the trade of Mason Plumlee to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I think everybody viewed him as a talented defensive (player), rim protector,” Clifford said. “But he also has a chance to be a very good offensive player, too.”
Williams had career highs with 18 points and 20 rebounds against the Heat. No Charlotte rookie had produced a game with at least 15 points and 20 rebounds since Alonzo Mourning in 1993.
“It feels great to make those plays and to have those plays end up in a win,” Williams said. “It was electric in there for sure. The fans were loud. I think just finding a way to win was really the biggest thing. I think it’s just another stepping stone for us.”
Williams has been clicking with point guard LaMelo Ball.
“It’s just chemistry that has just grown as I’ve been playing with him more and more,” Williams said. “Playing with him is really fun and I enjoy it, for sure.”
Detroit’s last two losses have come by a combined six points to the Orlando Magic and Toronto Raptors.
“We’ve become a good rebounding team, but you’re not going to beat too many teams shooting 40 percent (from the field), 25 percent from 3,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.
The Pistons could receive a jolt of energy from Marvin Bagley III, who was in action Saturday for the first time since Jan. 2 due to a hand injury. He racked up 21 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in the Toronto game.
The Pistons have won just two games in February. The first of those was a 118-112 home victory Feb. 3 against the Hornets. Jaden Ivey’s 24 points led the way, although that’s one of only two games in the last 14 when the rookie guard has reached the 20-point mark.
Detroit also won at Charlotte with a 141-134 overtime victory Dec. 14. Bagley logged only 10 minutes in that game.
–Field Level Media