In their first game back from the All-Star break, the Charlotte Hornets blew the doors off the Toronto Raptors, earning a 125-93 victory. They held Toronto to 61 points through the first three quarters in what was a dominant defensive showing.
The Raptors shot only 44.0 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from deep. Charlotte was playing some of their best defense of the season before the break. Although it didn’t translate into wins because of some shooting struggles, that same defensive pressure showed up on Friday night.
After the contest, James Borrego credited his squad’s constant effort and focus as the main reason behind the win.
"More than anything it was just our effort and focus. That got it done."— Bally Sports: Hornets (@HornetsOnBally) February 26, 2022
Head Coach James Borrego talks to the media after a dominant win over the Raptors. #AllFly | @hornets pic.twitter.com/dszOUho4fO
“Fantastic performance, really proud of the group. More than anything it was just our effort and focus that got it done. Extreme effort to start this game, the focus was there, the intensity defensively was there, everybody did their jobs.”
Borrego was left with only nine available players for the contest, but they were able to get the job done and then some. The whole unit seemed locked in on the defensive side of the ball, and it showed up in the stat sheet.
“I felt like there were [nine] guys out there that were connected, unselfish, played the right way, and played hard. And it results in this type of performance.”
Three Hornets players - Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Montrezl Harrell cracked the 20-point mark, but again, it was Charlotte’s defensive pressure that made life easy against Toronto.
Cody Martin made his long-awaited return from injury, notching just over 12 minutes of playing time. In addition, rookie JT Thor earned just under 24 minutes of action. Borrego made sure to give them both credit for their defensive contributions after the game.
“Adding Cody back is significant. I thought JT’s performance tonight was significant. We trust him to go play 10, 15, 20 minutes a night to keep us fresh. And that’s what’s going to bring us home here is keeping fresh bodies out there. And we gotta play with that effort defensively.”
While Martin has been a consistent defensive presence all season, Thor has just recently begun to crack the rotation. Neither players’ stats will stand out in the box score, but their impact is undoubtedly felt every single night.
Borrego also paraphrased a common basketball thought process when breaking down the victory - great offense starts with great defense.
“When you’re fresh and you’ve got some legs. What can you do differently to shoot the ball better? You rest your legs, that’s really the bottom line… More than anything that effort has to start on the defensive end and rebounding the ball.”
The Hornets are now a perfect 10-0 when they hold teams to under 100 points this season, and a whopping 17-2 when they hold opponents under 110. The path to the playoffs in Buzz City starts on the defensive side of the ball.
Charlotte is back in action on Sunday night when they take on the Detroit Pistons at 7:00 p.m. at the Spectrum Center.