Tuesday, October 3, 2023
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NBA Preview: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers

Winners of three in a row, the Los Angeles Clippers host the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.

The game marks the return of LaMelo Ball to his hometown. The second-year pro out of nearby Chino Hills played for the first time in Los Angeles last season, back-to-back games against the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, both losses. However, this weekend will be the first time Ball plays in L.A. with fans in attendance.

Ball is averaging 19.9 points a contest through the first 10 games. However, Ball and the Hornets are scuffling. Charlotte has lost three straight and four of its last five games.

Charlotte allowed the Sacramento Kings to hit a franchise-record 22 3-pointers in a 140-110 road loss on Friday.

“Pretty much we’ve just got to get locked in,” Ball said about his team’s loss to the Kings. “I feel like we were a little sluggish getting back. So we’ll watch the film and see where the mistakes are coming from.”

One area the Hornets need to improve is on the defensive end. Charlotte has allowed a league-worst 117.4 points per game.

“When we go dry offensively, I think it affects our defense,” Hornets head coach James Borrego said. “Good teams in this league maintain their defensive intensity and principles, no matter what they go through on the offensive end.

“This is a challenge for everybody in the league, especially a young team. There is a discipline that you have to have as a team and a focus that — I’m not worried about the last possession offensively. I’m still committed to the defensive end. We are not quite there yet. We are aware of it, and we are talking through it.”

After taking on the Clippers on Sunday, the Hornets face the Lakers on Monday and finish a five-game road trip against the Memphis Grizzlies in the River City on Wednesday.

After a 1-4 start, the Clippers have returned to their winning ways on the strength of more consistent defensive play. Los Angeles has held opponents to an average of 98 points a contest over the last three games, wins over the Thunder and back-to-back victories on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“That’s when we’re at our best,” Paul George said about his team’s defensive effort. “When teams are scoring, it’s harder for us to score because teams can load up defensively. But that was the advantage we had (against the Timberwolves). We scored, then we could get our defense set and kind of manipulate their possessions.”

The Clippers also are getting George more scoring help offensively. Specifically, guard Reggie Jackson has heated up, averaging 21 points a contest during L.A.’s three-game winning streak.

“I feel like Paul (George) has been playing free, but a lot of us have been kind of playing timid (offensively),” Jackson said. “We’re trying to figure out how to play with each other, trying to figure out the spots we’re going to be at.

“When you don’t see shots go in, you feel less confident and more reluctant to take shots. It’s made it kind of tough because I feel like I’ve been playing in quicksand at times this season. … But if I continue to get good looks, hopefully they will fall.”

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