Angry Warriors await playoff-hopeful Hornets
The playoff-hopeful Charlotte Hornets tip off about as tough of a back-to-back as the NBA schedule has to offer just when they need it least Sunday night when they face the Golden State Warriors in Oakland, Calif.
The Hornets (35-40) need all the wins they can get in their final seven games as they seek to move up from 10th place in their battle with Detroit, Brooklyn, Miami and Orlando for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Charlotte put itself in an improved position when it won three in a row on the eve of a four-game Western swing, but then suffered a critical 129-115 loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
Now the Hornets must deal, on the road, with a Warriors team stinging from a controversial loss at Minnesota, followed the next night by a visit to the Utah Jazz.
Between the two of them, the Warriors and Jazz have combined to go 52-23 at home this season.
Charlotte, meanwhile, has needed two wins in its last four road games just to reach 11-25 on the road.
While disappointed in the loss Friday, Hornets coach James Borrego saw encouraging performances by rookie first-round pick Miles Bridges (career-high five assists to complement 17 points) and rookie second-rounder Devonte Graham (career-high-tying 11 points to go with four assists).
"I thought our (young guys) were solid," Borrego noted to reporters after the game. "They're a work in progress. There are things I liked tonight. I'll watch the film and see where we can grow and get better. Obviously, there are areas of growth that we need to see again in Golden State."
The Warriors, meanwhile, would like to see areas of growth in the officiating in the wake of some head-scratching calls late in their 131-130 overtime loss at Minnesota on Friday night.
The key sequence began with 5.5 seconds left and Golden State down by three but inbounding the ball in its offensive end.
The pass went straight to Kevin Durant, who wasted no time turning and firing a 3-pointer while being fouled.
The shot went in, which appeared to put the Warriors a free throw away from taking an improbable lead, before young referee Marat Kogut waved off the hoop, saying the foul occurred before the shot, which returned possession to the Warriors out of bounds.
"It's a four-point play," Durant demanded to reporters afterward. "I mean, I don't know what else to say. Kind of mind-boggling. You catch and you go up for a shot, and you get fouled in any league -- any league -- that's a good bucket and a free throw. Any league, not just the NBA."
The next inbounds pass went to Stephen Curry, who buried a game-tying 3-pointer with 0.5 seconds left on the clock.
The Warriors laughed and pointed fingers at Kogut after the shot, and might have paid a price.
After advancing the ball with a timeout, the Timberwolves attempted a lob to Karl-Anthony Towns under the hoop, only to watch the pass sail well over his head and out of bounds.
But, again, a whistle. This time former NBA player Leon Wood detecting Durant bumping Towns as he attempted to leap for the uncatchable ball, awarding what turned out to be the game-winning free throw.
Asked afterward which of the late calls was worse, Curry declared to reporters: "You'd have to ask the MVP of tonight: Marat Kogut."
If there was a silver lining in the loss, which dropped Golden State (51-24) back into a tie with Denver (51-24) atop the Western Conference, it gave the Warriors an added incentive for their matchup with the Hornets.
The Warriors, who won 121-110 at Charlotte last month, have followed 10 of their last 11 losses with a win in their next game.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 31, 2019