Malik Monks and-one bucket helps Hornets secure improbable last-minute comeback win over Kings

Author : kacaumantenmanten
Publish Date : 2021-03-02 06:07:00

Malik Monks and-one bucket helps Hornets secure improbable last-minute comeback win over Kings

The Kings squandered an eight-point lead against the Hornets with just over a minute remaining in the game
The Charlotte Hornets pulled off arguably the best comeback of the season against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night. On the flip side, the Kings might have suffered the worst loss of the season. With 1:13 remaining in the contest, it looked like the Kings had the win all but wrapped up as they increased their lead to 123-115 over the visiting Hornets. However, Charlotte had other ideas.

After taking a timeout, the Hornets switched gears and turned the game completely around. Following a couple of big plays by their defense, Terry Rozier hit a big 3-pointer, and followed it up later with a couple of free throws that cut the Kings' lead to 123-120 with 33 seconds left on the clock. After De'Aaron Fox put the Kings back up 125-121 with a floater, P.J. Washington responded with a shot from long range. Buddy Hield converted one of his free throws, giving Sacramento a 126-124 lead with 10 ticks left.

That's when Malik Monk decided to play hero.

On what would potentially be Charlotte's final chance to tie or win the game, Monk drove in from the top of the key, absorbed contact from Kings big man Richaun Holmes and still managed to flip the ball through the basket with one second left. The bucket tied the game, and then Monk proceeded to hit the resulting free throw to give the Hornets the final lead -- an improbable 127-126 victory.
Monk finished the game with 21 points for the Hornets as they outscored the Kings 12-3 over the final minute of the contest. He also had a lot of help in the comeback. P.J. Washington tallied a career-high 42 points in the win, while rookie LaMelo Ball added 24 points of his own, to go along with a career-high 12 assists. Charlotte's victory over the Kings was so improbable that the Hornets had just a 1.6 percent chance of winning with 55 seconds left on the game clock.
After the game, Hornets head coach James Borrego was understandably proud of his team.

"It goes back to that term of resiliency, never dropping the sword, never giving in and fighting until the final second,'' Borrego said, via ESPN. "They had to miss some free throws to help us out, but we found a way. Down men, we found a way to win. Just proud of our group.''

While Borrego was proud of his guys, Kings coach Luke Walton felt the opposite emotion after watching his team let a game that they had complete control over slip away. Walton called the loss "painful" for a Kings team that is trying to stay alive in the Western Conference playoff picture.

"Come to an end of a game, that's where we have to step up and put teams out, and we didn't do it,'' Walton said. "Give Charlotte credit. They hit 3s and made every free throw down the stretch. That's a painful loss for our guys. We didn't finish it out.''  

The loss was obviously a tough one to swallow for Sacramento. The good news for the Kings, though, is that they won't have to wait too long for a rematch, as the two teams will square off again in Charlotte on March 15.
Lloyd Pierce may not have been able to turn the Atlanta Hawks into a contender, but that shouldn't diminish the potential appeal of the job to the right candidate. The Hawks come with a readymade star in Trae Young. The roster features a staggering seven former first-round picks aged 23 or younger, and after a free-agent spending spree last offseason, players like Danilo Gallinari and Bogdan Bogdanovic, when healthy, give the Hawks a compelling base of veteran talent.

When the Hawks have had all or even most of that talent on the floor together, they've actually played quite well. They were 9-9 before DeAndre Hunter's injury, for instance, and that includes nine missed games from Bogdanovic and 12 from Gallinari. A 5-11 mark since Hunter's injury cost Pierce his job, but if the Hawks can get healthy, they offer the rare combination of immediate talent and long-term upside that makes a coaching job desirable. Whoever lands this job could conceivably lead a winner for the next decade.

So who will get that chance? We can't say for certain yet, but an obvious starting point will be those with ties to the Golden State Warriors. That is where general manager Travis Schlenk spent the bulk of his career before landing with the Hawks. Atlanta's win-now mandate likely means that first-time candidates are at a disadvantage, so experience is another trait to watch out for. Seven candidates stand out at present as possible replacements for Pierce with those criteria in mind.

1. Nate McMillan
McMillan, in all likelihood, will have the incumbency advantage. The Hawks named him as the team's interim coach on Monday night after McMillan agreed to take on the position. That audition will likely go well. Gallinari is back in the lineup. Bogdanovic has been upgraded to questionable on the injury report, indicating an upcoming return. Hunter's timeline is less clear, but he is expected to return in the somewhat near future. Barring further injuries, McMillan would have the chance to coach the version of this Hawks roster that Pierce expected to. Should he lead it into the postseason, he would become the heavy favorite to retain the job.

Hiring McMillan would address one of Atlanta's most-glaring needs during the Pierce era: defense. The Hawks finished No. 28 in defense during Pierce's two full seasons on the job. Personnel is a likely explanation for that, and with an improved roster, they made it up to No. 9 on Feb. 1, the night of the first game that Hunter missed with his current knee injury. But McMillan's presence on the bench likely contributed to that. His Pacers finished in the top-six defensively in each of the past two seasons despite lacking talent that would indicate that they should do so.

The price for that defensive success has been offensive modernity. The Pacers finished in the bottom-five in 3-point attempts in each of McMillan's four full seasons in Indiana, including a last-place finish last season. Schlenk prizes shooting dating back to his Golden State days. Would he be comfortable hiring a coach with different offensive goals? That is the central question behind McMillan's candidacy.

2. Luke Walton
Our first (but hardly last) foray into the Steve Kerr coaching tree is the one that has struggled the most as an NBA head coach. Walton was fired by the Lakers after three underwhelming seasons, and now, midway through his second season in Sacramento, his Kings are 1-10 in their past 11 games. On Sunday, they lost a game that they led by eight with only one minute left. The man who hired him in Sacramento, Vlade Divac, is gone. Walton's time with the Kings appears limited.

But Walton could credibly argue that circumstance ruined his first two jobs. The Lakers were, after all, the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference before LeBron James suffered a groin injury on Christmas in 2018. Injuries went on to ruin that Lakers season. He then joined a Kings team that hasn't made the playoffs since the Paleolithic era. If he can't get another job, could any other Kings coach?

Well, there are different degrees to Sacramento's struggles. Dave Joerger was fired by the Kings, for instance, but that came after their best season in eons. Walton took over for Joerger and inexplicably tinkered with the one thing that was working for the Kings: their speed. Sacramento's pace dropped from third under Joerger to No. 19 under Walton last season. It's back up to ninth now, but the damage has been done. If Walton couldn't figure out how to maximize DeAaron Fox, why would the Hawks trust him with Young? Young's stylistic similarity to Stephen Curry, whom Walton once led to a 24-game winning streak, is an argument, but not enough of one to earn him this job. Walton's candidacy will hinge on his ability to explain what happened in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

3. Alvin Gentry
If Walton gets the axe in Sacramento, another former lieutenant of Kerr's is likely their top internal candidate. If Walton turns things around? Alvin Gentry will likely be on the lookout for another top job, and unlike Walton, he at least has some history of winning as a head coach. He led the Phoenix Suns to the Western Conference finals in 2010 and the New Orleans Pelicans to the second round in 2018.
That Suns tenure is likely what will appeal most to Atlanta. Aside from Curry, the player Young is most often compared to is Steve Nash (despite Nash's distaste for Young's foul-hunting). Gentry knows how to build fast-paced offenses around singular ball-handling talents. He led the Suns for three full seasons. All three featured top-10 offenses, including a No. 1 finish in 2010. Curry's 2015 Warriors finished No. 1 in offense as well thanks to a scheme developed by Gentry and Kerr. Few coaches are better equipped to build an offense around Young than Gentry.

But Gentry's history of defensive struggles won't do him any favors. He's held four full-time head-coaching jobs and been fired from all four. His career record of 510-595 is discouraging, to say the least. Gentry is an offensive genius, but is he a viable head coach for a winning team? That's for Schlenk to determine.

4. Jarron Collins
The lone first-timer on this list is one of Kerr's current proteges. Collins interviewed with the Hawks in 2018, and while he didn't get the job, the overwhelming belief around the NBA is that he will one day get an opportunity to lead a franchise. Like Gentry and Walton, years of working with Curry will appeal to an Atlanta team hoping to turn Young into a similar weapon, but a storyline to watch with Collins will be the development of No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman. Former big men that turn to coaching often play a direct role in developing the younger big men their team employs, and Atlanta just spent the No. 6 overall pick on Onyeka Okongwu, another big man. Collins' presence could be beneficial to him.

Schlenk chose a first-time head coach in Pierce the last time he led a search. Whether he will be willing to take such a plunge a second time, especially with so much pressure to win immediately, is less clear. But it should be noted that Kerr was a first-time coach in 2015. The Warriors won the championship. Nash has a chance to replicate that success in Brooklyn this season. If Collins is the right candidate, his experience might not matter.

5. Mike Brown
You won't find a coach more experienced in the art of managing superstars than Brown. In addition to his time with Curry in Golden State, Brown has worked with Tim Duncan in San Antonio, Reggie Miller in Indiana, LeBron James in Cleveland and Kobe Bryant in

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