It has been a month since the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets got together for the first time this season for a memorable game.
The teams meet again Monday night in Charlotte, N.C.
“It has been a long grind. We’re .500,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said of his 17-17 team. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We know what we’re capable of.”
The Hornets are coming off a 2-4 road trip, which was capped by a 115-107 comeback victory at Denver after trailing by 19 points.
“I saw growth,” Borrego said of the recent stretch. “We know the formula. Now we’ve got to go execute it for 48 minutes. We’re not there yet.”
Houston won 146-143 in overtime at home against the Hornets on Nov. 27, giving the Rockets back-to-back wins for the first time this season.
Houston’s Christian Wood had 33 points in the high-scoring victory, while Terry Rozier notched 31 points for Charlotte as the Hornets rallied from 17 points down across the last 10 minutes of regulation.
That triumph against Charlotte led to what became a seven-game winning streak for the Rockets. Since that run of victories ended, Houston has gone 2-7.
The game at Denver might have indicated progress defensively for the Hornets. The 107 points allowed was the fewest in a game since prior to Thanksgiving.
The Rockets haven’t responded well to zone defenses, so that might be an option for the Hornets. Clearly, Houston had the offense rolling in the first matchup with Charlotte.
“There are times when we don’t have a bunch of shooting on the floor, so we’ll probably see some more (zone defenses),” Houston coach Stephen Silas said. “It makes sense to throw some zone on us when we have certain lineups on the floor.”
The Rockets could get a boost from Jalen Green, who racked up 20 points Thursday night at Indiana in his first game returning to action following a hamstring injury. He logged 25 minutes.
“That’s something to build on,” Silas said. “I wanted to play him longer than I did. He was in rhythm the whole game.”
Silas said he likes some of the elements involved when the Rockets go to a smaller lineup. But that has left rebounding as a trouble spot.
Monday’s game concludes a stretch of five consecutive on the road for Houston, which arrives with a three-game losing streak. A matchup against a struggling opponent could help the Hornets get on another run.
“We continue to battle,” Borrego said. “The goal is not to get down, but this group continues to fight. We’ll find the right lineup that fits for that night and make a run.”
Charlotte’s comeback in Denver consisted mainly of second stringers. Forward P.J. Washington knows the value when any group on the roster can contribute.
“Try to be consistent in my role,” Washington said. “I feel me being aggressive opens up a lot for us.”
The Hornets played their past three games without Cody Martin, who has been in COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
This will be the Hornets’ first home game since Dec. 10.
–Field Level Media