Slumping Hornets aim to get back on track vs. Pistons

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The Charlotte Hornets adjusted their starting lineup but couldn’t alter the way a game finished this week.

So that puts a premium on a better result Friday night against the visiting Detroit Pistons when the teams meet in Charlotte, N.C.

Charlotte is on a four-game losing streak, while the Pistons have dropped three games in a row.

Hornets coach James Borrego said he would evaluate the various lineup combinations.

“See how this group reacted,” he said. “We had a different rotation with starting (Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier) together.”

The search for a spark is ongoing. In Wednesday night’s 119-117 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Rozier matched his career high with 33 points.

“He looked much more comfortable,” Borrego said. “His rhythm was there. He competed and played hard.”

Graham was a starter for the first time this season, ending up with 19 points that included a final-minute tying 3-point basket.

The overriding issue for the Hornets tends to be sustaining their good stretches. They broke a tie with a 12-0 run in the third quarter and then saw the lead vanish.

“You’ve got to find a way to close out,” Borrego said. “You do that with poise, execution and defending. … They’re competing. They’re playing hard. They’re playing to the last second.”

The Charlotte backcourt also received a boost from Malik Monk, whose contributions have started to become more consistent.

“Malik was aggressive. He made good reads, good plays,” Borrego said. “There’s real growth there. He’s making plays for us right now.”

For the second time in four games, Charlotte rookie forward PJ Washington was held to five points or less. Borrego said that’s all part of the learning curve for a player who’s suddenly thrust into a steady diet of games.

“I don’t want to wear him out. It’s a long year,” Borrego said. “I trust him. I like him. I think he’s getting better.”

The Pistons had a strange, weather-impacted trip to Miami, meaning little rest for back-to-back games at the beginning of the week.

Overcoming such challenges is something Detroit coach Dwane Casey would like to see from his team.

“It’s the way you start,” Casey said. “We have to fight through adversity. That’s what life is about, that’s what this game is about.”

Guard Luke Kennard agreed.

“We can’t let excuses dictate how we play, how we start games,” Kennard said.

Kennard has led Detroit in scoring in the past three games with 29, 25 and 22 points in that order. He overcame a rough shooting stretch in the last game against the Miami Heat, something that he has been addressing so that he can effectively move on after the ball doesn’t go in.

“I’ve kind of worked on that … mentally being locked in,” Kennard said.

It’s worth seeing how Detroit forward Blake Griffin and guard Derrick Rose responded from returning from injuries to play Monday. By design, they weren’t on the court Tuesday so that they wouldn’t be playing on back-to-back nights.

The visit to Charlotte is the lone game across a seven-day span for Detroit. Still, it hasn’t been an uneventful period for the Pistons, with guard Khyri Thomas undergoing foot surgery that will cost him at least a couple of months of the season.

–Field Level Media

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