For context: Back in the summer, Boston’s Jayson Tatum delivered a randomly stray attack on the Hornets, explaining how he had an obligation to show up and play effectively whenever he put his uniform on no matter the day or opponent.
“We are playing the Hornets tonight, I’m going to chill,” the Celtics star told a group of attendees in a video that went viral in July. “I only go to Charlotte two times a year. Somebody paid their money to come watch me play. Not to be arrogant, but there’s a bunch of kids in there with my shoes and my jersey on.
“And just because we are playing Charlotte on NBA League Pass on a Monday and ain’t nobody (really) watching, I’m chillin’ tonight? That’s not what the great players, the best players do.”
Tatum was a bit prophetic and had his way with the Hornets as usual. But LaMelo Ball’s electrifying effort paired with Miles Bridges’ clutch play late — including knocking down the game-winning 3-pointer — lifted the Hornets to a spirited 121-118 overtime victory over Boston at Spectrum Center on Monday night, ending a four-game losing streak.
Bridges got the start at power forward in place of PJ Washington, who had been struggling. And the versatile forward came through in the clutch, draining the biggest shot he’s hoisted in more than a year and a half and also snaring the game-sealing steal to propel Charlotte (4-9) to a much-needed win over the top team in the Eastern Conference.
“It feels good,” Bridges said. “We just showed a lot of resilience. Of course Boston with how talented they are, they’re playing for seeding in the playoffs and we’re playing to get to the playoffs. That was a big game for us. They’re capable of beating any team in the league at any time by 20-plus points, so for us to come out with that win, that should give us a boost of confidence.
“We play the (Washington) Wizards next here, so we’ve just got to build off of this game. They beat us already at the crib by a lot, so that should mean a lot for us and that should be good motivation for us.”
Translation: don’t follow up the best outing of the season with a clunker against a cellar-dweller.
“This league is not about a great win,” coach Steve Clifford said. “This league is about can we come back and play well Wednesday and win. That is what the league is about. If you want to look at every year, the teams that end up with the worst record beat the teams with the best record. That’s the way the league is. They are all good players. The difference is night-to-night. It’s not one night. It’s can you put games together?”
Here’s what else of note the Hornets had to say about their slump-busting win:
On Miles Bridges starting at power forward over PJ Washington
“Just because that’s the way we’re going to do it,” Clifford said. “PJ and I have been talking about this ever since Miles came back. So, he’s still going to play. His minutes won’t change. PJ will play just as many minutes as he was before, but we have to get to playing groups like we were talking about before the game. And so they’re going to play together, too.
“PJ is all about the team. He’s extremely team-oriented. He grew up in a basketball family. He has no problems with it, and again, this has been something that’s been discussed since Miles came back. This wasn’t like I brought him in (Sunday) … This was not anything that anybody wasn’t planning on.”
Bridges said: “Coming off the bench or starting, playing is playing. I came off the bench and played 33 minutes (last week). As long as I am running up and down, getting my rhythm back, my wind back, I feel like I’ll be good.”
Ball said: “I’ve got trust in Miles. I know what he’s capable of and I know what I’m capable of, so there’s a lot of trust there. Just trying to win.”
On LaMelo Ball on being 2nd-fastest player to make 500 career 3-pointers
“Feeling a little more healthy and I’ve got games under my belt,” Ball said. “I didn’t do FIBA or overseas or any of that stuff, so I haven’t played in a minute. I’m feeling better now.”
Said Clifford: “He’s playing great. Their defense is about as good as it gets, and he has 36 (points), eight (assists) and nine rebounds. His defense is getting better and better, too. He’s a very talented player, and I don’t know if it shows, but if you watch him in the weight room and look at all the data that they give us, he’s a lot stronger than he was last year.
“He couldn’t do a lot this summer on the court or conditioning because of his ankle, but he did spend a lot of time in the weight room, and I think that’s paying off. His numbers finishing at the rim, although it’s early, are much better than they have been in the past, and a lot of that is just strength.”
Bridges said: “It’s great. I know Melo’s potential being around him, working with him all the time. It’s great for him just to be playing with confidence, playing with that edge. That just shows how much he wants to win. Melo is the ultimate winner. People talk about him playing for flashy plays and highlights and stuff. Nah, Melo, he wants to win and it’s good for him to be our franchise player and to be playing like this.”
On the play of Mark Williams, who had 18 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks
“It was his best game,” Clifford said. “I know he had the monster game, but tonight he made more just effort plays than he’s made so far in his two years. Think of the number of offensive rebounds he kept alive, he’d bring it down. Not just rebounds in his area. He blitzed tonight well when we needed to do that, and he was good in the drop. He had a lot of juice.
“Playing every night for the first time, I think people look at him and you’ve got to remember he didn’t play 82 games last year. So, some of this is learning on the fly also. I thought that this was by far his best game — his attitude, his intensity, all of it.”
On what’s wrong with the ‘D’
“Just our rotations on defense,” Williams said. “I feel like there’s times when we are out of sync, times where we’re not closing out, not making those effort plays or the plays where we’ve got to just scramble and cover for each other. I’d say that’s probably the biggest thing. I think offense is good — most of our games have been good. It’s not like we aren’t scoring points.
“It’s other stuff. It’s not like we aren’t capable of doing it. I think that;s the biggest piece. It’s stuff we can fix right away. … I think sometimes it’s miscommunication, sometimes it’s effort. I think that’s the problem. We’ve just got to talk it out, be early, be decisive.”
On the importance of using the best lineup combinations
“For a team like us, it’s critical to get there,” Clifford said. “We’ve been all over the place obviously with the guys that have been out. And now that Miles is back, we’ve got to get to that in these next seven games.
“It helps any player to me to know, again, ‘I’m playing these minutes with these guys on the floor, and this is what we are going to do,’” Clifford said. “We are in the game and we press more. We zone more. We do whatever. We run more. That’s what works. Here pretty soon, when we are playing every other day like this, you don’t have a lot of practice level and their comfort level and how well they can play with confidence comes with clarity. And how you sub is a big part of that.”
On Nick Richards, who was spotted on site after morning shootaround
“I think he feels better,’ Clifford said. “As you know, the NBA has a protocol, which is smart. And he’s still got quite a ways to go in that before he’d be cleared to do anything.”