NBA Basketball

Hornets, Hawks drag contrasting issues into matchup

Two teams working through a different set of problems will meet Wednesday night at Atlanta when the Charlotte Hornets face the Hawks for the first time this season.

The Hawks have blown a 15-point second-half leads in each of their past two games, losing both. The Hornets have dropped three straight games and have had trouble scoring.

The Hawks won both meetings between the teams last season, 122-107 in Charlotte and 143-138 in double overtime in Atlanta. After Wednesday's game, the teams will play again on Saturday in Charlotte.

Atlanta (4-3) has lost its three games by a total of 14 points. Forward John Collins said, "I feel like we've lost three games we shouldn't have lost."

The Hawks appear to have been done in by fatigue in the past two losses. The first defeat came against Cleveland, one night after Atlanta played in Brooklyn. The second loss came Monday against the Knicks when the Hawks had only four bench players, and those reserves produced just 14 points. The Atlanta offense scored only 20 points, going 7 of 21 from the field, in the fourth quarter against the Knicks.

"Really it just comes down to us locking in," Collins said. "For some reason, fourth quarters have eluded us. We've just got to do a better job locking in mentally and can't let small mistakes beat us at the end of the game. That we did all that work to lose like that ... can't happen."

Atlanta's top scorer remains Trae Young, who averages 28.6 points and 9.1 assists a game. Young scored 31 Monday, one game after being limited to a season-low 16 points. Teammate Collins averages 17.1 points and 7 rebounds, and De'Andre Hunter averages 15.9 points. Clint Capela has posted three straight double-doubles.

The Hornets enter the game after losing back-to-back contests to Philadelphia, 118-101 on Monday and 127-112 two days earlier. The Hornets rank 11th in the Eastern Conference in offense at 107.3 points a game.

"We couldn't score (against Philadelphia)," Charlotte coach James Borrego said. "We couldn't find the bucket, and it bled over into our transition defense. Until we figure out the offense and find guys that can score and put the ball in the hole, we're going to have to play defense consistently."

Charlotte's top scorer is Terry Rozier, who averages 21.6 points a game, but he scored only 12 in the loss to the Sixers on Monday. He scored a career-high 42 against Cleveland on Dec. 23. Gordon Hayward averages 18.7 points and 5.6 rebounds.

There is growing pressure for the Hornets to start rookie LaMelo Ball, who is averaging 11.6 points and 4.7 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. But the staff is sticking with Devonte Graham, who has started all seven games and is averaging 9.9 points and 6.1 assists. Graham was only 5 of 13 from the floor Monday and is shooting 27.1 percent from the field this season.

Atlanta continues to deal with health issues. Rajon Rondo has missed three straight games with left-knee soreness, and Bogdan Bogdanovic sprained his right ankle Monday and was unable to play in the fourth quarter.

--Field Level Media

Updated January 5, 2021

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