Maybe one of the keys for the Charlotte Hornets is to make sure they're properly challenged.
They've shown the ability to compete well against top teams in the NBA. They've also faltered in other situations.
So, with a road game against the New York Knicks on Monday afternoon, it's fair to wonder which version of the Hornets will show up.
Will it be the group that knocked off the Milwaukee Bucks twice in a three-night stretch and followed that by winning at Philadelphia to extend a winning streak to four games? Or will it be the version that suffered a home loss Friday night to the lowly Orlando Magic?
"I said we couldn't relax against this team and that's exactly what we did," Hornets forward Miles Bridges said. "Those guys came out, played hard, punched us in the mouth, did all the little things. We can easily get up for the Warriors or Bucks, Nets game, but when we play these types of teams, we have to get up and approach the game the same way. That's a sign of maturity, and that's not what we did."
New York has moved back above .500 by winning three in a row. That stretch was capped by Saturday night's 117-108 victory at Atlanta.
Julius Randle has clearly been playing at a high level for the Knicks, and he's joined by RJ Barrett.
"You can't say enough about how RJ is playing," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Knicks don't want to lose the gains that have been made recently. So, expect the coaching staff to keep pushing them hard.
"The big thing is each day keep improving," Thibodeau said. "I think guys are building pretty good chemistry off each other. You never have it all figured out. You have to keep that edge."
For Hornets coach James Borrego, the 116-109 loss to Orlando was yet another indicator of the ongoing process in trying to make Charlotte a true contender.
"Obviously, we didn't handle our wins appropriately," Borrego said. "For whatever reason, the mindset wasn't there. We have a ways to go. But we move on."
Charlotte's latest outing reflected shortcomings at both ends of the court. The Hornets shot 12-for-42 on 3-pointers and committed 17 turnovers. On defense, Charlotte gave up 50 points at the rim.
The Hornets have lost five of the eight games this season in which LaMelo Ball has been the team's leading scorer. That includes the last four games in which the point guard has topped the Charlotte scoring column.
The Knicks are looking for more key contributors, and it appears that the door is open for several players to emerge with more playing time.
"We've got to get the bench going," Thibodeau said. "Whatever gives us the best chance to win, that's what we have to do."
It's unclear when recently acquired Cam Reddish will make his debut with the Knicks, but it's unlikely to be Monday as he's nursing an ankle injury. Thibodeau said Reddish will have to work into the rotation.
"Winning has to come first," the coach said. "You play who gives you the best chance to win. If you're in the rotation, you have to perform well."
Monday's game begins a four-game homestand in a seven-day stretch for the Knicks.
--Field Level Media