Malik Monk credits LaMelo Ball as a reason for late-game Hornets success

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Jacob Rude
·3 min read
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In Wednesday’s win over the Phoenix Suns, the Charlotte Hornets continued their brilliance in late-game situations, executing down the stretch to secure a comeback victory. The execution in clutch situations wasn’t new. The Hornets have established themselves as arguably the best team in the league in clutch situations.

After the game, Malik Monk pointed to LaMelo Ball as one of the primary reasons for the Hornets’ late-game success.

“Melo can pass, man,” Monk said.” He’s going to find us. Gordon’s always stepping up making big plays. (Rozier) always making big plays. And Melo, man, Melo just finds everybody. He finds you at the right time, too. The pass isn’t late? He’ll turn it over every now and then, but he’s going to find you for the most part. That’s what we feed off of.

“Him, Rozier And Gordon, they all make big plays down the stretch, as well. So it is all together and we don’t bow our heads man and give up on each other either so that’s a big part.”

Counting Wednesday’s win, the Hornets are first in the league by some margin in net rating in clutch situations. Their rating of 51.4 is well ahead of the Sixers in second (34.6) and Orlando in third (23.4).

Individually, the Hornets have had success across the board this season. No player has a negative rating in clutch situations for Charlotte. Ball, who Monk singled out, has a net rating of 44.4 while Devonte’ Graham (70.3), Gordon Hayward (52.2) and Terry Rozier (47.9) have flourished in late-game situations.

Clutch situations have been something of an emphasis for head coach James Borrego in practice this season.

“This is where you win on the margins,” Borrego said. “You can help your team win on the margins on end-of-game situations. To me, I believe that’s where my job is most important is down the stretch and fourth quarters, end-of-game execution. That’s what I’m paid to do is get our guys ready for those moments, and they’ve been responsive and attentive in those moments. And we’re still not where we want to be. I do think we’re the best team execution-wise down the stretch and our guys deserve the credit, but we still got a number of things that we’d like to install and get better at as we go and we’re learning on the fly.

“Even tonight, for us to execute a few things down the stretch, our guys are learning on the fly,” he added. “It’s to their credit because we’ve not been together very long. This is not like we’re a seasoned group that’s been through the playoffs together and we felt these end-of-game situations. We’re literally talking this out on the fly in timeouts and some practices and there just hasn’t been a whole lot of that. So, I give our guys all the credit in the world for the way they’ve handled themselves, especially in clutch situations.”

While the Hornets don’t have quite the sample size of most teams in clutch situations, ranking 26th in minutes at 42, they have had 10 games feature clutch situations, which is described as a game within five points with five minutes or fewer left. Their 10 games rank sixth in the league, making up for the limited total minutes.

Conventional wisdom suggests the Hornets will come down to Earth in clutch situations, but Charlotte’s work this season and the evidence so far suggests late-game situations will be one of the strengths of the team moving forward.

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