NBA Basketball

Hornets look to rediscover their offense vs. Pelicans

The Charlotte Hornets have addressed certain issues that have popped up across the opening weeks of the season, primarily on defense.

Perhaps they'll be shifting gears a bit for Saturday night's game against the visiting New Orleans Pelicans at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, N.C.

For the first time this season, the Hornets enter a game after significant shortcomings on offense.

"Every night there's going to be a different look," coach James Borrego told reporters. "You've got to adjust and adapt."

Defense had been a sticking point for the Hornets. Yet it was offensive snags that were glaring in their most recent game.

The Hornets had a three-game winning streak snapped with Thursday night's 108-87 home loss to the Boston Celtics on an emotional night as all-time Hornets scoring leader Kemba Walker returned to play against Charlotte.

"This was a new wrinkle," Borrego said after the game of some of the offensive challenges he saw. "We got to the rim, we just couldn't finish. We just couldn't generate enough momentum offensively."

The Hornets have generally liked the vibe presented by second-year guard Devonte Graham, who ran into some trouble against Boston. Borrego said Graham will be viewed differently by opponents if he maintains production, so he'll have to adjust.

Graham is averaging a team-best 17 points per game off the bench, though Borrego said he's not inclined to move him into the starting lineup yet.

On the plus side for Charlotte, some of the emphasis on defense might be making a difference.

"I see us progressing the right way," Borrego said. "I think our physicality is picking up."

P.J. Washington has given the Hornets a defensive presence at the rim, one of the developments at the end of the court.

"Nobody's hanging their heads," Borrego said. "I think we're getting better defensively. We're a ways away from where we want to be, but I think we're moving in the right direction defensively."

The Pelicans have lost three straight games after Friday night's 122-104 home loss to the Toronto Raptors. New Orleans is off to a 1-7 start, trying to work in younger players.

One of them is rookie Nickeil Alexander-Walker.

"It's a long season," Alexander-Walker said. "I'm trying to be prepared as much as I can to be better."

Pelicans guard Frank Jackson has scored in double figures in four consecutive games. A couple of ailing New Orleans players, Lorenzo Ball and J.J. Redick, were cleared for Friday night's game and they played. But their statuses are bound to be a topic again in Charlotte as the team has games on consecutive nights.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said the team must stop falling into deep deficits.

"You're playing uphill," Gentry said. "I've been really, really disappointed in our transition defense. We've got to get back."

Saturday night's game would have been the first visit as a pro to the Carolinas for prized rookie Zion Williamson of the Pelicans. He's from South Carolina and played one season of college basketball for Duke in North Carolina. Williamson remains out after suffering a preseason knee injury.

For Charlotte, the game will be the third home outing in a row and part of a six-game stretch with five home games.

--Field Level Media

Updated November 9, 2019

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