A quarter of the way into the NBA 21-22 season and the Charlotte Hornets see the reality of a top-four ranking in the Eastern Conference by the end of the season.
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The idea of a high ranking had started to fade for the Hornets who had an impressive start to the season, going 5-2 in games in October – including a victory in Brooklyn – but the wheels fell in November as the team struggled, losing five in a row, including losses in the West to Golden State, both Los Angeles and Sacramento.
Behind their young stars like LaMelo Ball, Mile Bridges and Kelly Oubre Jr, the team has yet rejuvenated its season.
Following the dismantling of the Anthony Edwards and Minnesota Timberwolves squad on Friday night, the Hornets find themselves on a three-game winning streak and have won eight of nine games in total to climb to fifth place in the East at 13-8.
During that streak, they beat Washington and Golden State respectively as they were at the top of their respective conferences.
At the start of the season, the Hornets were winning games because of their offense, but during this current winning streak, head coach James Borrego believes it’s the defense that leads the wins.
“I think we’ve improved in the last 10 games,” Borrego said. “I think our defense has turned. We have shown that we are a competent defensive team, and I think in the last 10 games we have been in the top 10 defensive and that’s the goal is to maintain it. Every night, when we’re an aggressive team and defending, we’re able to win every night. “
To underscore this fact, it’s worth noting that in the victory over the league-leading Warriors, the Hornets kept them at 102 points – their second lowest goal tally of the season.
Kelly Oubre Jr. drains 7 3 p.m. and the @frelons knock down 23 3pm to tie the franchise record in their big home win!
Kelly Oubre Jr .: 27 PTS, 7 3 p.m.
Miles Bridges: 18 PTS, 7 REB, 3 3 p.m.
Gordon Hayward: 18 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST, 3 BLK
LaMelo Ball: 10 PTS, 6 REB, 13 AST pic.twitter.com/pMjBgRhgoO
– NBA (@NBA) November 27, 2021
The Hornets will now travel to Houston to face the Rockets 2-16 before the Ball Brothers face off in Chicago on Monday. This will precede games against the Bucks, Hawks and a home and away streak against the Philadelphia 76ers, which could see Joel Embiid return to the lineup.
The Hornets are looking to reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2015-16 season. In the current season, the Hornets are ranked 21st in defensive standings, but in that nine-game stretch they are ranked fourth.
They’re ranked ninth in the offensive standings, and if they can just get the two to click together with luck on the injury front, this could finally be the year they advance to the playoffs.