The Charlotte Hornets aren’t at full strength and they’re far from a smooth operation.
So maybe it’s a degree of toughness that’s going to have to blossom in order for the team to have much success.
“We just made a lot of toughness plays down the stretch and got the win,” guard Terry Rozier said, referring to a rare victory earlier this week.
The Hornets haven’t won back-to-back games this season, but they’ll try to achieve that feat Friday when they face the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves have been rolling for more than a week, carrying a five-game winning streak into the contest after winning 115-101 on Wednesday night at Indiana. That’s as many victories as Charlotte has all season — and the longest active winning streak in the NBA.
It’s also taken just a week and a half for the Timberwolves to double their season’s win total from five to 10.
“It’s been fun,” Timberwolves big man Rudy Gobert said. “Every night we try to set the tone.”
The Timberwolves had their best game of the season in Indianapolis, coach Chris Finch said.
“Every time they’ve played they’ve been a little better,” Finch said of the starting unit. “It takes a while.”
The Hornets won a home game for just the second time by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 107-101 on Wednesday night. Still, Charlotte is 2-11 in its last 13 games overall.
Strange as it might sound, the Hornets needed to win in a close game rather than one in which they held a comfortable lead.
“It’s more rewarding to execute down the stretch and have something that wasn’t a runaway,” center Mason Plumlee said.
Rozier is the team’s leading scorer at 20.4 points per game. He had 22 points in the Philadelphia game despite not scoring in the first quarter.
“My confidence never leaves me,” Rozier said. “I’m always a guy to go home, look myself in the mirror and if I made mistakes, I’m always going to be hard on myself. My coaches and my teammates, they do a great job of believing in me.”
Having Rozier back in the lineup is a welcome sight for the Hornets, as he missed time earlier in the season with an ankle injury. His presence is even more important now that backcourt mate LaMelo Ball is out with an ankle injury.
“He’s playing huge minutes and he’s got a lot of responsibility,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.
Clifford said there’s reason for concern about how the Hornets have attacked early in some games. That could be a bigger focus against the Timberwolves, who are tied for first in the NBA in first-quarter scoring.
The Hornets have struggled in transition, too. So, amid the adjustments to the lineup and wavering availability of some players, that’s something that the team wants to improve upon.
“We should be hungry to get the defensive rebound and get out and go,” Plumlee said.
The Timberwolves are bound to be aware of that.
“Teams that play fast, move the ball well, has really troubled us so far,” Finch said.