Basketball

Hornets’ three-game win streaks ends in a crash against Celtics in Kemba’s return

The Charlotte Hornets had a 4-3 record, but they hadn’t really beaten anybody good.

They still haven’t, and a 108-97 beating by the Boston Celtics at home Thursday drove home the point. This ended a three-game winning streak in which the Hornets beat the Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors and Indiana Pacers.

This game was nationally televised on TNT in part because former Hornet Kemba Walker and former Celtic Terry Rozier were matched for the first time against their former teams in the regular season. Walker didn’t play like an All-Star (14 points on 4-of-12 shooting), but Rozier particularly struggled, shooting 1-of-11 from the field for three points.

The Celtics (6-1) got 23 points from Jayson Tatum and 20 from Gordon Hayward.

For the Hornets, Miles Bridges finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and Devonte Graham came off the bench for 15 points and nine assists.

Nice buzz

Bridges is being asked most nights to guard the opposing team’s primary scorer. That takes up energy he could otherwise devote to offense. Bridges got on a roll against the Pacers on Tuesday, making eight of his 10 shots, and it carried over into the first half Thursday, when he scored 14 on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, plus he grabbed seven rebounds.

Bee stings

It’s not a surprise that the Hornets continue to commit constant turnovers (they had 11 in the first half), but the 3-point shooting looked like a strength that has gone south fast. After entering the Warriors game Saturday with the top 3-point percentage in the NBA (then 41.9 percent), the Hornets made just 16 of their next 70 attempts from 3. They started this game 1-of-10.

Building blocks

Graham has played far better than Rozier so far at point guard. It doesn’t necessarily matter if Rozier keeps starting, because Graham is already playing starter’s minutes and the two points play together a lot. However, maximizing Graham’s development is as important as any Hornets agenda right now.

Beyond the numbers

Coach James Borrego said before training camp he isn’t concerned with contracts, salaries or how highly a player was drafted in doling out minutes. That has applied to several players, among them reserve guard Malik Monk, 2 1/2 years removed from being a lottery pick. Monk got a season-high 22 minutes Thursday, but much of that was garbage time. He finished just 1-of-3 from the field and 0-of-2 from 3-point range.

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
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