Hornets out to finish strong vs. Rockets

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The Charlotte Hornets have to figure out these finishes.

They’ve failed to produce on the final possessions of the past two games, resulting in one- and two-point defeats.

“I feel like it’s just growing pains, you live and you learn basically,” Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham said.

Charlotte will attempt to snap a three-game skid in Saturday’s finale of a four-game homestand against the Houston Rockets.

The Rockets would have liked a close game in their most-recent outing. They failed to keep up in a showdown with the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night in a 120-105 defeat.

The Rockets won’t dwell on that result, though others might see it as a litmus test.

“We’ve got 21 games left to prepare ourselves for the bigger picture,” Houston’s James Harden said.

The Rockets have lost their past two contests following a six-game winning streak. They’ve lost more than two consecutive games only in two different stretches this season.

Yet going to Charlotte might look like a chore for the Rockets. They were upended on Monday when their win streak was snapped by the New York Knicks, who like the Hornets have endured plenty of difficult times this season.

“Everybody goes out and competes,” Houston guard Russell Westbrook said. “You’ve got to be ready to play.”

The Rockets tend to point to defensive shortcomings as the culprit when things don’t go their way. The Hornets can understand that because until recently there were glaring issues on defense for Charlotte.

An entertaining fourth-quarter stretch on Thursday with the teams trading leads gave the Hornets an empty feeling when Terry Rozier’s final shot bounced away.

“I’d take those shots any day,” Rozier said.

The Hornets received a huge boost from Graham with his 24 points after he sat out the previous game with an ankle injury. The guard leads the team in scoring with 17.8 points per game, just ahead of Rozier (17.5).

With Graham, there tends to be the capability of creating another level of offense.

“It’s great to have him back on the court,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “I thought he played extremely well.”

Graham said he expects to be sore from the injury, but he desires to be on the court.

“I felt comfortable enough to play, so I wanted to go,” Graham said.

Graham has become the focal point for some opposing defenses. He said he’s trying to find the best ways to counter those moves.

“I’ve got to find another way to be aggressive (and) score,” Graham said.

The Hornets have lost six of their last seven home games.

While Charlotte has been stung by some narrow margins, the Rockets haven’t been regulars in last-possession drama. However, in games decided by five points or less since Jan. 1, Houston holds a 1-3 record.

Houston claimed a 125-110 victory against Charlotte on Feb. 2 behind Harden’s 40 points. He averages 34.6 points per game and Westbrook provides 27.5 points per contest.

–Field Level Media

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