NBA Basketball

Hornets to build up Bridges as Suns settle in Charlotte

Charlotte rookie forward Miles Bridges has had a mostly quiet rookie season. The Hornets are hoping that might be changing.

Bridges was part of a big bench effort Thursday night, scoring 15 points on 6 of 9 shooting in a 114-95 home win over the Sacramento Kings. For Bridges, the 12th overall pick in the draft out of Michigan State, it was just his ninth double-figure scoring game of the season.

The bench scored 60 points against the Kings, a positive development for Charlotte (21-23), which plays host to the Phoenix Suns (11-35) on Saturday.

Bridges is averaging 6.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game, and coach James Borrego said the rookie is beginning to make an impact on both ends.

"He's a bright kid. He's a real bright kid," Borrego said after the game.

"He picks things up quickly. ... He's a very cerebral player. He understands the game. Now you have to translate it into the game. When it's going 100 miles an hour, can I respond and react? He has moments when he doesn't react well and others where he is growing, getting better.

"The game is slowing down. ... He's attacking. He's much more comfortable out there offensively. But he's giving us a lot defensively right now."

Borrego has been preaching defense. The Hornets are 9-0 when holding opponents under 100 points.

The Suns are not one of the NBA's high-flying teams, averaging 106.0 points per game, which ranked 26th in the league heading into Friday night's games.

But the last-place team in the Western Conference has had some encouraging results lately, including beating Eastern Conference power Toronto at home last Saturday and losing a close one at the Raptors 111-109 on Thursday night. Pascal Siakam hit a last-second layup for the win.

The Suns' Josh Jackson drew two technical fouls in the fourth quarter and was ejected. Coach Igor Kokoskov recently talked about the team's issues with officiating, saying the Suns were in "daily communication with the league office."

Said point guard Devin Booker: "We can come in and complain about calls every game, but nobody respects us and we should know that by now. Everybody knows that. If you're not one of those top teams, you're going to have to work for it."

Booker is averaging a team-high 24.5 points and 6.9 assists per game. No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton is bidding to become the first Suns rookie to average a double-double; he's at 16.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

For the Hornets, point guard Kemba Walker is averaging 25.2 points per game. In a 119-113 win in Phoenix on Jan. 6, he scored 18 of his 29 points in the final 4:25.

But for Borrego, it's all about defense, which is where Bridges and the bench come into play.

"It takes us a lot of effort to defend. A lot," Borrego said.

"We can't just roll out a team and walk and go through the motions and expect to defend. Offenses are just too tough. They're too athletic. The 3-ball is too important right now.

"For us to defend, we have to have great effort. And to have great effort, you have to have great energy. So that's why I'm playing these guys shorter rotations, shorter minutes, so they're fresh out there to give us all they have defensively."

--Field Level Media

Updated January 18, 2019

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