Thursday, January 26, 2023
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NBA Preview: Charlotte Hornets at Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings have conquered one category.

Now it’s on to the next task when they face the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

This matchup comes just two nights after the Kings won a home game for the first time this season.

Beating the Hornets might require some hard work as well. Charlotte has won the past five meetings with Sacramento.

The Kings topped the New Orleans Pelicans 112-99 on Wednesday night. That was the first time in their eight games that the Kings held an opponent under 100 points.

Half of Sacramento’s wins have come against New Orleans.

“Now we have to break through,” Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton said of demonstrating more consistency. “We’re right there. That’s part of having a young team and growing.”

The Hornets began the season with a 3-0 record, but they’ve tailed off since then. Yet coach James Borrego said those early outcomes should be remembered for some of the things that were learned.

“We’re capable of that,” Borrego said. “We can play at that level, and we’ve shown that. We just have to be more consistent with our effort, with our execution.”

Charlotte has reached 100 points in all except two of its nine games. It had a season-low total in Wednesday night’s 114-92 loss at Golden State in the beginning of a five-game road trip to Western Conference destinations.

“Our defense gave us a chance,” Borrego said. “Obviously our offense struggled.”

Still, Miles Bridges racked up 32 points, reaching the 30-point mark for the fourth time this season.

The Hornets are bound to see spirited play from point guard LaMelo Ball, a second-year player who’s back in a rare in-season trip to his home state.

That makes it potentially a good matchup at the point guard position between Ball and Haliburton. They’re both first-round picks from the 2020 draft.

“I don’t even care if he makes mistakes right now,” Kings coach Luke Walton said of Haliburton. “The more that he can share who he is with the identity of our team, the better we’re going to be.”

Last March, Ball had 16 points and Haliburton posted four points when the teams met in Charlotte. A few weeks earlier in Sacramento, Charlotte rallied to win by one as Ball tallied 24 points, while Haliburton sat out the game with a calf injury.

Ball was the 2020-21 NBA Rookie of the Year, with Haliburton finishing third in that voting.

The Hornets won their first three road games this season until suffering back-to-back losses on the road. Charlotte has lost two games in a row overall for the first time this season, combining Monday’s home defeat to Cleveland with Wednesday’s result.

In the Golden State game, there was an encouraging aspect for the Hornets. They led after the first quarter for the first time this season.

“Sometimes it’s just one bad quarter,” Borrego said. “In this league, your margin of error is so small and our margin for error is very small. To win in this league against good teams, you have to play for 48 years and four quarters of basketball and we’re just not there yet.”

The Kings will have to see if there’s any fallout from the league regarding center Richaun Holmes’ second-half ejection Wednesday night. He was restrained from team staff members prior to exiting the court.

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