The Charlotte Hornets hope LaMelo Ball returns this season, but their immediate ambition is to extend their winning run without him when they face the Phoenix Suns on Sunday night.
Ball, who ranks third on the Hornets in scoring (15.9 points) and leads the team in assists (6.1) and steals (1.6) per game, will be re-evaluated in four-to-five weeks.
In the meantime, the Hornets have won the first three games their talented rookie has missed since fracturing his right wrist – but Charlotte’s road is about to get tougher.
Sunday’s night home game is against a high-flying Suns team and is the Hornets’ last game in their own building before a six-game road trip that includes trips to Brooklyn, Boston and Milwaukee.
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The Hornets have won five in a row at home and will try to match their longest winning streak of the season against the Suns, who overcame a poor shooting performance down the stretch of Friday’s 104-100 win over the Toronto Raptors.
The Suns didn’t make a field goal over the final three minutes and 50 seconds, but escaped with their fourth win in their past five after Mikal Bridges collected a key rebound with 7.3 seconds remaining that led to a pair of Devin Booker free throws to seal the win.
“We don’t run a lot of plays for him but we wouldn’t be in this position without him,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.
“He’s one of those guys who can find different ways to affect the game.”
Bridges finished with 11 points and seven rebounds against the Raptors while Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton each had 19 points. Paul and Booker combined to make four free throws over the final 42 seconds of the game as the Suns prevailed despite going 9-of-36 from three-point range.
“Just a lot of huge, grind-out plays tonight,” Williams said. “I’d rather have an ugly win than a pretty loss.”
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Live NBA: Phoenix @ Charlotte 28.03
Without Ball, the Hornets will need balanced efforts and other sources of offense to step up as Malik Monk did during a 110-105 win over the Miami Heat on Friday.
Monk scored 32 points on 12-of-17 shooting off the Hornets bench.
“He can score with the best of them and he showed it tonight,” said Terry Rozier, who finished with 26 points against Miami and recorded a career-high 11 assists.
Monk also led the Hornets with 29 points when they beat Phoenix 124-121 in the team’s first match-up last month. Booker had 33 points to lead Phoenix in that game.
The Hornets added more depth at point guard to help during Ball’s absence when they acquired Brad Wanamaker before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. Charlotte traded their 2025 second-round pick to the Golden State Warriors for Wanamaker and a 2022 second-round pick.
Wanamaker is averaging 4.7 points and 2.5 assists in 16 minutes per game over 39 games this season.
“He doesn’t turn the ball over that much, he can knock down the three,” Hornets forward Miles Bridges said on Thursday about Wanamaker, who took part in the team’s pre-game shootaround on Friday.
“He’s a veteran point guard that can guard and I think that’s what we needed in LaMelo’s absence right now.”
For Phoenix, Abel Nader missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. Charlotte’s PJ Washington left the game against Miami in the second half with a leg contusion.
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