Hornets are staggering; it’s not fair to think Miles Bridges alone can save them

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It will be a definite boost this weekend if Miles Bridges is cleared to play for the Charlotte Hornets.

However, it’s totally unrealistic to think a guy coming off a case of COVID-19 will somehow rescue what the Hornets have been of late.

They’re out of bodies, out of scoring and out of energy. The Hornets were outscored 29-13 in the fourth quarter of a 113-90 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. This team is staggering into next week’s play-in round.

They have now lost three in a row and it’s conceivable they end the regular season on a five-game losing streak. Road games against the New York Knicks Saturday and Washington Wizards Sunday will likely be against opponents with stakes, and right now the Hornets are gassed.

Their two best available outside shooters -- Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham -- were a combined 2-of-10 from 3-point range. The Clippers did what the New Orleans Pelicans did Sunday -- smother Rozier defensively and dare any other Hornet to beat them.

The Clippers have such size and defensive skill on the perimeter in 6-foot-8 Paul George and 6-7 Kawhi Leonard that Rozier hardly ever got a clean look. He finished this game 3 of 13 from the field for 10 points.

Graham, who had 31 points Tuesday in a loss to the Denver Nuggets, was 1 of 7 Thursday for five points.

With Bridges and Gordon Hayward (sprained foot since April 2) out, teams have no reluctance to over-commit to Rozier defensively. Rozier said Sunday he must consider that a given the rest of this season.

“He might be feeling it (more lately), but it’s been for a while now,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of the attention on Rozier. “When Gordon went out, the (opponent) focus turned a little bit. Especially when LaMelo (Ball was also injured).

“Now he’s got the full attention of the scouting reports and everybody’s best defender. Tonight, they went between Paul George and Kawhi Leonard -- two of the best defenders in the NBA.”

Miles Bridges can’t be viewed as a savior

It’s no one’s fault the Hornets are ravaged by injury and illness. But it’s a reality that has disabled them. I get asked constantly if Hayward is coming back this season, which is understandable. Here’s the reality: No one should expect that. Maybe he feels dramatically better in the next few days, but I’d be surprised if he’s ready for that play-in game after he wasn’t able to practice Wednesday.

Bridges is likely on the verge of being cleared out of health and safety protocols, after missing the last five games. Just having him back will be a boost because he’s become a leader and an energizer. However, to assume he can bounce right back from COVID-19 to play long minutes or out-jump everyone immediate is somewhere between wishful and absurd.

Probably the only good news out of Thursday was the Indiana Pacers also losing, to the Milwaukee Bucks. That avoided the Hornets falling into ninth place in the Eastern Conference (they hold a tiebreaker over Indiana). Under the play-in rules, the seventh- and eighth-place teams get two chances to win a game and advance to the playoffs while Nos. 9 and 10 are in lose-and-you’re-out mode.

Winning in Boston would be a feat for the Hornet at this point, but at least staying at No. 8 would give them a home game in that second opportunity to advance.

Right now, any conceivable advantage could be crucial to actually qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since the spring of 2016.

Bismack Biyombo holding up spirits

Veteran center Bismack Biyombo said he isn’t worried that this team -- so young, so short-handed -- has become beaten down emotionally.

“We’re in good spirits. We look forward to Saturday’s game” in New York, said Biyombo, who had 13 points and seven rebounds in what might be one of his last games as a Hornet. Biyombo is a free agent this off-season and the Hornets clearly aspire to make changes at center.

Biyombo made the argument that the Hornets haven’t unraveled.

“We understand who we are and what we need to do,” Biyombo said. “We have the right guys in this locker room.”

The problem is not enough of those right guys are available That likely won’t change before it’s too late.

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