Youth was served on Saturday night, as the Hornets used the energy and production of young reserves Malik Monk and Miles Bridges to rally in the second half and defeat the Bulls, 125-118, in front of a sellout crowd at the Spectrum Center.
Second-year guard Monk and rookie forward Bridges combined for 31 points off the bench on 11-for-16 shooting, including 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
Yes, Kemba Walker was the star again for the Hornets, scoring 15 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter. But it was the play of the two youngsters that provided the spark on both ends of the court as the Hornets were rallying from an early 15-point deficit.
Hornets head coach James Borrego was understandably pleased with the performance of both Monk and Bridges on Saturday. “I think what is special, and what will continue to be special about him is the fourth-quarter confidence,” Borrego said of Monk. “He’s not afraid of the moment. He was locked in defensively and gave us great energy.”
The Hornets came up big offensively once again in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Bulls 37-32. It was the third time this week that the Hornets used a big fourth quarter to come away with a home win.
On Monday, they outscored the Knicks, 30-21 in the fourth to win 101-92. Friday the Hornets trailed the Grizzlies by three entering the fourth quarter, 73-70, before outscoring Memphis, 30-19, in the final period.
The win puts the Hornets back at the .500 mark for the first time since New Year’s Eve, when they were 18-18. The challenge for the Hornets now is to figure out a way to continue the momentum that has led them to win seven of their last 10 games.
“I think where I feel more confident is the way we’re closing out games,” Borrego said of this current version of the .500 Hornets. “I’m starting to see a group grow.”