Hornets get next shot against scorching Nets

(AP Photo/Jessie Alcheh)

The Charlotte Hornets have lacked a finishing touch for most of the season, but they'll try to at least cap 2022 with something to remember.

The Hornets host a New Year's Eve game Saturday night against the scorching Brooklyn Nets.

The task looks challenging for Charlotte, as the Nets enter on a 10-game winning streak.

"It's not one thing," Nets star Kevin Durant said. "It's a group effort. Everybody has to bring it in order for us to be a good team. We have to execute on the small parts, the detail parts of the game."

The Hornets opened their homestand with Thursday night's 121-113 victory against Oklahoma City.

"The big thing is to be plus-seven in the fourth (outscoring the Thunder 36-29) is good because that's the quarter we've struggled in," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.

The Hornets need to start producing in home games. They had lost five in a row on their home court until the result against Oklahoma City.

If there's a new surge of excitement stemming from the Hornets it might revolve around point guard LaMelo Ball, who was one assist shy of a double-double Thursday night with 27 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The Hornets also are bound to be pumped up about rookie center Mark Williams, who has spent most of the season in the G League. He came off the bench to rack up 17 points (7-for-7 shooting), 13 rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals Thursday night.

"Just got into a rhythm early and continued to do that on both sides of the ball," Williams said. "You never know what each game could hold. For me, it's just being ready for my opportunity when that moment happens and being prepared for it. It's not like I'm nervous or anything."

Williams turned out to be quite a combination with starting center Mason Plumlee, who posted 14 points and nine rebounds. The two big men combined to shoot 13-for-14 from the field.

"He's going to get an opportunity to play for a few games so hopefully he can keep building on that," Clifford said of Williams. "What it gets back to in this league, you have to do it three or four times a week against different type of players, against different type of coverages."

The Nets have been off since Wednesday night's 108-107 escape in Atlanta. This visit to Charlotte will conclude a three-game road trip.

"When you follow a game plan that works, you start believing more and more," Durant said. "We started to figure it out these last few weeks."

Brooklyn's winning streak began Dec. 7 with a 122-116 home victory against the Hornets, with Kyrie Irving pouring in 33 points in that game.

Either Irving or Durant has been the Nets' leading scorer in all except one game this season. Durant racked up 27 points in a Nov. 5 win at Charlotte.

The Hornets would covet sustained success. They're aiming to secure back-to-back wins for just the second time this season. Ball missed both previous games against the Nets.

"We're just trying to stick to the game plan each and every night," Hornets forward PJ Washington said. "Everybody is getting back (from injuries) and things are starting to turn for us."

--Field Level Media

Updated December 31, 2022