The Hornets trotted out a starting lineup with a little bit more experience than in previous games with Nick Smith, James Bouknight, and Bryce McGowens joining Brandon Miller and Kai Jones on the shelf. Kobi Simmons, Xavier Sneed, and Amari Bailey entered the starting lineup. For whatever reason, the Hornets offense looked significantly crisper and more organized. A lot more passing, a lot less dribbling. Bailey scored eight first quarter points as they jumped out to an early lead. The Hornets did a lot of damage in transition, even after made baskets. The fast pace led to a 60 point first half and a 15 point lead heading into the half.
The Timberwolves turned up the intensity in the second half and forced some turnovers, but the Hornets continued to keep them at arm’s length. They repeatedly outran the Wolves in transition for layups and kick outs to wide open threes. The Wolves never made it close, and the Hornets cruised to a 17-point win and one of their best summer league outputs in recent memory.
Marlon Garnett suddenly doesn’t look so incompetent as a head coach. For the first time all summer league, the Hornets didn’t look like a discombobulated mess. They assisted on 34 of their 39 made baskets, shot 53.4% from the field, and 44.8% from three. The offensive execution was immaculate and frequently drew praise and borderline astonishment from the commentary crew of Stephanie Ready and Greg Anthony.
A lot of that improved flow was a result of the guard play. Kobi Simmons played the role of floor general very well and controlled the pace of the game. Justin Robinson, who had previously been part of the problem with his own tunnel visioned guard play, did a much better job of picking his spots and facilitating the offense. Both players tallied eight assists and made at least half their shots. They’re unselfishness as lead guards was infectious and a big reason for the offensive improvements.
Amari Bailey got his biggest role of the summer league and took advantage. He finished with a game high 17 points and even knocked down a couple of 3-pointers. He had at least one really nice assist and this highlight layup in the game’s final minutes.
James Nnaji continued to be a force defensively and this time sprinkled a little bit of offense. He blocked five shots in just 21 minutes and deterred a fair few more. He also scored 10 points on the night which included a little jump hook and 4-of-5 free throw shooting.
The dichotomy between the Hornets’ B-team and the guys actually on the Hornets roster was striking. The performance against the Wolves accentuated how poorly Bouknight, McGowens, and Smith played as lead guards and offensive facilitators. Other than that, it was a pretty clean game.
Nothing for a while. The Hornets will open training camp in late September before the preseason gets underway in early to mid-October. Hopefully they give us something to talk about between now and then with the unsettled free agency of PJ Washington and a couple of open roster spots that need filling.