The Boston Celtics have been among the best teams in the NBA for the first month of the season.
That’s not the case for the Charlotte Hornets, who need something good to happen.
The teams with opposite types of streaks will meet Monday night in Charlotte, N.C., where the Celtics will conclude a four-game road stretch.
Kristaps Porzingis scored 26 points to lift Boston to its sixth straight victory on Sunday with a 102-100 win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Even that wasn’t totally satisfying for the Celtics, however.
“We got lucky enough to win that game,” Boston coach Joe Mazzulla said. “You can learn from losses. You can learn from wins. I didn’t think we deserved to win the game because a lot of the stuff that we did.”
So Mazzulla will have a motivational angle to use for the game in Charlotte. He said the Grizzlies played harder than the Celtics in Sunday night’s game.
That’s all part of the heightened expectations for the Celtics, who are led by Jayson Tatum’s averages of 26.9 points and 8.7 rebounds a game.
“Guys in the locker room set a high standard for themselves,” Mazzulla said.
The Hornets probably are in a totally different state of mind as they try to break a four-game losing streak. In home games, Charlotte has dropped six straight since winning the season opener.
Charlotte’s offense has been regularly sparked by guard LaMelo Ball, who has reached the 30-point mark in five of the last seven games. He’s averaging 24.4 points per game. With 25 or more points in each of those seven games, that’s the second-longest Hornets streak in that category in franchise history.
Rookie Brandon Miller is coming off a career-high 29 points against the New York Knicks on Saturday night. Yet Miller is receiving hard lessons on the pro level about the necessity for focused defensive intensity.
“I think we kind of struggled maintaining our man in transition,” Miller said. “I think that’s just an effort thing with us, something we’ve got to clean up going into the game against Boston. Our focus is just individual defense. I think if we shut down a few players, we will have a great outcome in any game.”
Miller’s offensive skills have translated well in the early part of his NBA career.
“He does it the right way. He works in practice,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said.
Clifford said the defense must be addressed across the roster with the team. The Hornets shot 49 percent from the field Saturday night against the Knicks, a rate that should be good enough to at least keep the team in tighter games.
The Hornets have lost by 14 or more points in three of the four games in their skid.
Ex-Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has scored a total of 12 points in 90 minutes across the last three games combined for the Hornets. He has shot 6-for-25 from the field in those games, missing all six of his 3-point attempts.
“That’s something we have to work on,” Clifford said of getting Hayward and P.J. Washington to pick up the pace offensively.
The Hornets were missing backup center Nick Richards, who was in the concussion protocol, on Saturday night.