Nuggets, Hornets square off looking for rebound performances


The Denver Nuggets and Charlotte Hornets are in different spots in regard to the NBA playoffs, but they have something in common going into Tuesday night’s game in Charlotte, N.C.: Both are trying to recover from disappointing outcomes in their most recent games.

The Nuggets (44-24) are fourth in the Western Conference, but a third-place spot is within reach.

The Hornets (33-35) are one victory away from clinching at least a spot in an Eastern Conference postseason play-in game.

“We carry on,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of the need to bounce back.

Both teams are looking for contributions from players beyond their core groups.

Charlotte scored only 14 fourth-quarter points in a 112-110 loss to the visiting New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday night. The Hornets shot 5 of 16 (31.2 percent) from the field in that quarter.

“We had some good looks, a couple at the rim,” Borrego said. “… Some turnovers there, some spacing, some execution. Our defense gave us a chance.”

The Nuggets have lost two games in a row with a setback Friday at Utah followed the next night by a home loss to the Brooklyn Nets, who overcame a 21-point deficit for the 125-119 outcome.

Denver probably needed the two days off before beginning the season-ending, four-game stretch of road outings. The first three of those come against teams with losing records.

Nikola Jokic continues to be the offensive focal point for the Nuggets. But others are getting opportunities for various reasons.

Denver’s Aaron Gordon missed Saturday’s game with a calf ailment. Markus Howard has taken advantage of a chance in the primary rotation.

“Markus Howard, Vlatko (Cancar), Bol (Bol), they got a chance to play some real game minutes,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

Denver is chasing the Los Angeles Clippers, who are third in the Western Conference. The Clippers visit Charlotte on Thursday night, so how the Hornets play this week could impact the pecking order in the Western Conference.

The Hornets received some good bench minutes from Caleb Martin and Cody Zeller in the New Orleans game. Zeller’s contributions could be critical, particularly with the Hornets trying to find ways to defend the Nuggets.

“He looked very comfortable,” Borrego said. “Cody exhausted himself. He ran so hard. He played so hard.”

An inside-outside game is something the Hornets would like to develop on a more regular basis. Guard Terry Rozier knocked in 43 points against the Pelicans.

The Hornets have had a wide range of results and types of performances in recent weeks, coming amid some roster upheaval stemming from injuries. Borrego said he hopes a foundation has been set that will help the team navigate the final week.

“Consistency overall, playing closer to the highest level possible for 48 minutes,” Borrego said. “Can you bring the same effort for 48 minutes? That’s the biggest thing. It’s not an Xs and Os thing. It’s the mentality of playing the right way for 48 minutes. The teams that do that more consistently are the teams that typically win in this league.”

The Nuggets won 129-104 on March 17 at home against Charlotte.

–Field Level Media

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