Improving Cavaliers host slumping Hornets

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Ready to move past a rough final game of 2019, the Cleveland Cavaliers see a brighter situation for the new year.

They’ll begin that quest Thursday night at home against the Charlotte Hornets.

The Cavaliers have won four of their past six games despite the bumpy ride in Tuesday night’s loss at Toronto.

“The young guys want to learn and want to be great and they’re going to keep pushing themselves,” Cleveland center Tristan Thompson said. “I’m here to stick it out and help these young guys. … No shortcuts, do the right thing day-in and day-out.”

The Hornets arrive with a six-game losing streak, so their issues seem more extreme than those confronting the Cavaliers.

The Hornets are trying to crank up their perimeter shooting again, an area that had been a strength. They ought to see a glimmer of hope for that considering the Cavaliers surrendered 17 baskets from 3-point range in the 117-97 loss at Toronto.

“Communication, just talking and … be on the same page,” Thompson said of the key to defending better on the perimeter.

The Hornets received a team-best 15 points from PJ Washington in Tuesday’s home loss to the Boston Celtics. Six players reached double-figure points for Charlotte.

“I saw a lot of good out there,” Hornets coach James Borrego said, clearly trying to boost confidence in the slumping team. “I thought our team played with a great competitive spirit. Just didn’t make enough shots.”

The Cavaliers won more games in December (five) than November (three), but first-year coach John Beilein knows there are still many areas to improve.

“We’re still working there. People need to make shots, too,” he said. “It will grow.”

Thompson and Kevin Love recorded double-doubles for Cleveland in the Toronto game. Love was back in the lineup after sitting out Saturday at Minnesota because of a hip ailment.

Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton said when shots aren’t falling the team has to make good in other areas.

“Defensively, things we can control,” Sexton said. “As a group, we just have to get better.”

Sexton shot 3-for-27 on 3-point attempts in December.

“Next game I’m going to try to hit one or two and get it back going,” he said.

The Hornets are searching for more solutions on offense. Guard Devonte’ Graham has had more difficulty finding openings as defenses concentrate on him.

Developing interior production continues to be a chore for Charlotte.

“We’ve got to get to the rim and put more pressure there,” Borrego said. “We don’t have great size. We’ve just got to keep working with what we can do at the rim. We don’t want to keep settling for 3s. … When that shot is not dropping, we have to put more pressure at the rim.”

Cleveland defeated the Hornets 100-98 on Dec. 18 at home despite Charlotte guard Terry Rozier racking up a career-high 35 points. That outcome began the six-game losing streak for the Hornets.

The Cavaliers open a four-game homestand with Thursday night’s game.

–Field Level Media

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