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On Saturday night, the Charlotte Hornets not only lost their second game of the season but they lost a game where they were manhandled in the paint. In the first two games, the Hornets were out-rebounded by 25 and had given up 110 points in the paint.
Entering Sunday night’s matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, it looked as if it could have been more of the same.
Brooklyn has both DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen in the paint averaging over nine rebounds a game, and as a team, they grabbed 114 rebounds in their two victories. The Nets also has Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert with the ability to score in the paint at any point in time. So the matchup against a team with this type of talent could have caused major problems for the undersized Hornets.
Hornets head coach James Borrego had told the team in shootaround on Sunday morning “that this thing is going to turn and it can turn in one game and this game is the bar for us”.
From the opening tip-off, Charlotte looked and played like a completely different team. They dominated the glass with a team that has only one player above 6’8″. The Hornets out-rebounded the Nets 52-46 resulting in a 106-104 victory.
Gordon Hayward spoke about the teams’ urgency against the Nets.
“We almost have to treat every team like it’s Brooklyn. I think because it was Brooklyn, we almost had this extra urgency. We got to be better at having that urgency no matter who it is,” stated Gordon Hayward. “I thought we did a good job of trying to commit to what we wanted to do.”
The defense also stepped up and played a complete game in the paint. After watching players like Colin Sexton, George Hill among others being able to score in the paint over the last two games at will, the Hornets turned up their defense.
They held the Nets to 26 points in the paint and allowed them to only take 23 shots there and 16 shots in the restricted area.
On the offensive end, the Hornets were the more aggressive team. Not only did they take 33 shots in the restricted area, they took 53 shots inside the paint allowing them to outscore the Nets 64-26. That aggression not was not only big in the stat sheet but it allowed for the game-changing run to take place.
Devonte’ Graham believes that the team can go far if they continue to be aggressive in the paint.
“We have to attack the basket and be the aggressive ones, also on the defensive end we have to keep guys out of the paint,” stated Graham. “We don’t have a Rudy Gobert or somebody that will clog the paint up, block a whole bunch of shots and get a whole bunch of rebounds so we have to do it collectively and keeping guys out of the paint is one of those ways.”
In the fourth quarter, the turnaround happened. In the course of a 1:38-second span, Charlotte went on a 13-0 run that expanded the game from an 84-81 lead to a 97-81 advantage. During that stretch, Hayward, Miles Bridges and Graham all hit three-pointers.
Those looks became easier due to the Hornets being able to score inside the paint.
Efforts like this will not only allow the Hornets to win games like Sunday night against Brooklyn but with three games in four nights starting Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks, this will give the team more opportunities to add more W’s in the win column.