Here are two fun facts.
Fun fact #1 - The Charlotte Hornets have not lost a game this season when they allow less than 110 points. This is a point that’s been brought up time and time again in the past few weeks.
Fun fact #2 - They’ve done that six times in their last seven games.
Charlotte is 6-1 in their last seven and 7-3 in their last ten games. It’s been a great two weeks of basketball in Buzz City. And oddly enough, they’re winning because of defense.
Since their loss to the Washington Wizards on January 3, the Hornets rank second in the NBA in defensive rating (102.6) and allow the fourth-least points per game (102.1). They are one of two teams in the top ten for both offensive and defensive rating over that span. The other? The league-leading Phoenix Suns.
This stretch hasn’t been against low-level teams, either. They’ve beaten the Philadelphia 76ers, the New York Knicks, the Boston Celtics, and the Milwaukee Bucks twice. In three of those games, the opponent failed to crack 100 points, let alone 110.
Head coach James Borrego spoke about this increased defensive pressure in an interview with Kyle Bailey on WFNZ’s The Clubhouse on Friday.
“I was frustrated after the Washington loss and the lack of effort defensively stood out, and if we want to be a consistent winner you can’t just do it on the offensive end and the defensive effort is becoming a part of our team’s DNA.”
Cody Martin has been spearheading that charge, including a 45-minute shift against the Knicks (in a non-overtime game). But other players have been stepping up, too. It’s a team effort on that side of the ball, and it’s all about effort, ad Borrego pointed out.
They don’t have a ton of high-level defenders on the roster in terms of pure skill. But defense is just as much about effort as it is about pure skill. Charlotte’s communication, rotations, and overall game plan on the defensive end have been much better in recent weeks, and it’s showing up in their record.
The Hornets’ offense is great. They have the talent to be elite on that end of the floor. It’s their defense that’s been the major question mark this season.
But if they can play this level of defense for the remainder of the season, they will be a top-tier playoff team by the time the playoffs roll around.