Hornets may provide unforeseen challenge for Warriors amid surprising hot stretch

Charlotte Hornets v Golden State Warriors
Charlotte Hornets v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Golden State Warriors began their post All-Star break period on a positive note, comfortably accounting for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 128-110 win at Chase Center on Thursday night.

But there'll be no time to celebrate for the surging Warriors, with the Charlotte Hornets visiting on Friday in the second night of a back-to-back. The Hornets should present as one of the easier teams on the schedule given their 14-41 record, yet that may not prove the case if their recent form is any indication.

The Charlotte Hornets will meet the Golden State Warriors on the back of four-straight wins since the trade deadline

Since being active at the trade deadline with the departures of P.J. Washington and Gordon Hayward, the Hornets have been revitalized with four consecutive victories by an average of over 12 points.

To put the surprise of their recent form into context, Charlotte had won three of their previous 31 games beforehand. It's quite the turnaround, even if three of the wins have come against teams ranked 10th or below in the respective conferences.

The Hornets rank fifth in defense and fifth in net rating over the past four games, building some momentum despite the absence of franchise star LaMelo Ball who's been out since January 26 with an ankle injury.

LaMelo Ball, Jonathan Kuminga
Charlotte Hornets v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Grant Williams, a 2022 Finals opponent of Golden State, has made an impact to start his tenure in Charlotte. The former Celtic forward has averaged 18.8 points on 42.9% three-point shooting in his four games, including 24 in a 115-107 win over the Utah Jazz on Thursday.

Miles Bridges has taken on the responsibility of being the number one option in Ball's absence, having averaged over 21 points on the season including back-to-back 40-point games earlier in the month.

While the Hornets may have found some confidence, the Warriors should still expect to handle their business with a minimum of fuss. The hosts are 9-2 in their last 11 games and will receive a further boost with the return of Gary Payton II who missed Thursday's game due to illness.

Another win would inch the Warriors closer to the rivals above them in the West -- they're currently 3.5 games back from the sixth-seed Dallas Mavericks and seventh-seed Phoenix Suns, three games behind the eighth-seed Sacramento Kings, and just half a game from the Lakers in ninth.