Recap and analysis: Hornets overcome icy start to lose by respectable margin to Pelicans

The Hornets played without Brandon Miller and Kai Jones, and their absences were conspicuous. The Hornets started the game 0-of-14 from the field with two missed free throws and four turnovers to start the game in an 18-0 hole. Nick Smith was the first starter to score–he made a nifty layup in traffic with 5:39 left in the second quarter. Bryce McGowens made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points as part of a big Hornets run to narrow the deficit to five by halftime.

The Hornets lost a lot of that ground in the third quarter despite some decent scoring from James Bouknight. They entered the fourth quarter trailing by 14. They threatened with some mini-runs here and there, but they couldn’t get close enough to put the final result in doubt.

The Good

James Nnaji struggled on offense, but he made a noticeable impact on both the boards and on defense. He had just two points and a couple of bad passes in traffic, but he reeled in 11 rebounds (4 offensive) and blocked four shots. He was a deterrent around the basket even when he wasn’t blocking shots, and his defensive positioning was fantastic. He gave the Pelicans all sorts of problems in the pick and roll by positioning himself close enough to the ball handler to discourage shot attempts while also taking away the passing angles. He showed instincts that were much more mature than what you’d expect from someone who won’t turn 19 for another month.

James Bouknight ended up with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting. I’m sure both he and the Hornets were desperate for him to look like the best player on the floor for once, and he kind of delivered on that tonight. He hit four 3-pointers and made some nice looks for himself off the bounce. Perhaps most importantly, he played decisively in the second half. He made a lot more forays into the paint and was aggressive pushing the ball in transition. Too often he’s been hesitant to take more than one or two dribbles towards the basket if it’s not wide open, so maybe this will give him some confidence to attack more.

Bryce McGowens ended up with a solid game after a very poor start. He looked confident shooting from deep and had a couple of savvy, physical drives.

Long time Swarmers Kobi Simmons and Xavier Sneed stabilized the free fall the Hornets were in to start the game. Their box score contributions were underwhelming, but they played professional basketball and provided some stability so the young guys could find their footing. Leaky Black contributed in much the same way save for a few bad passes leading to turnovers.

The Bad

The first quarter. It was a clinic on bad basketball. The Hornets were constantly up against the shot clock and looked completely lost offensively. There were a couple of possessions where the Hornets were hurried by the shot clock before they even got the ball inside the 3-point arc. The lack of point guard experience was very apparent. Thankfully the G League veterans were able to establish some offensive rhythm that the rest of the team could build off for the final three quarters.

Amari Bailey only played nine minutes and turned the ball over four times. He was hardly noticeable in those nine minutes aside from knocking down a corner three in the second quarter.

What’s Next

The Hornets wrap up Summer League on Saturday at 2:30 Eastern time against the Timberwolves. They get the first game of the consolation round so the league can kick them out of Vegas as soon as possible.


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