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Blazers, Hornets meet going in opposite directions
The Portland Trail Blazers are one of the hottest teams in the NBA. The Charlotte Hornets are not.
The Trail Blazers have won three consecutive games and 10 of their last 14. They play host to the Hornets, who have lost three of four and six of nine, on Friday in Portland.
But the Blazers say they're not of the mind to overlook anybody.
"Can't think about (an opponent's) record," Portland swingman Evan Turner said. "You have to take care of business. Teams are going to come out and compete and play hard. We have to do whatever it takes to win and leave it at that."
Portland (25-17) owns one of the league's best backcourts in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who combine to average nearly 47 points a game. But they likely will have their hands full Friday night when they face Charlotte's Kemba Walker, who averages 25.1 points per game.
"He's a good dude," McCollum said. "He plays well, he plays hard, he does things the right way. He's having an All-Star season."
"I love Kemba's game," Lillard added. "He has been having his best season this year. He has been really aggressive, leading their team. They've had to fight for every win they have. He has been a huge part of that. It's going to be another tough night at my position."
Even with starting small forward Moe Harkless (knee) out, the Blazers have displayed one of the deepest benches in the NBA.
In a 124-112 home win over the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday, Portland's reserves combined for 56 points.
They were led by guard Seth Curry, who knocked down 7 of 11 shots, including 3 of 5 from the 3-point line, and finished with 17 points in 23 minutes. Power forward Zach Collins totaled 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. The 7-footer was 6 of 9 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.
"We're getting better," Curry said of the Portland bench.
"That's the way it should be as the season goes along. You continue to find things you do well, and do them better. I'm getting more comfortable with these guys and finding spots, finding ways to contribute."
The Hornets, who will be on the fourth stop of a six-game, 10-day road trip, are beginning to get more from Malik Monk, a second-year guard out of Kentucky. Monk, who led Charlotte (19-21) with 24 points in a 128-109 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, said he is still learning as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the NBA.
"You have to know when to speed up and when to slow down," Monk told the New York Times. "I thought it would be way smoother. It's been a lot of ups and downs.
"If you're a second late, it's over with. You can recover in college, and you can hide in a zone, too. But (in the NBA), you get exposed. Everybody is so good."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 10, 2019