The starters looked good, but the bench looked progressively worse the deeper it got as the Charlotte Hornets blew a late lead to lose to the Miami Heat,
The Hornets looked surprisingly crisp to start the game. The defensive rotations were sound and the offense looked smooth even if the shots didn’t all go in. Mark Williams had a couple of nice blocks and the Hornets went step for step with the Heat. Everything started to sputter when the bench got in. Outside of a couple of JT Thor threes, everything was bad. The Heat scored 20 straight points to turn a four point deficit into a 16 point lead. The starters stopped the bleeding. They cut the deficit to one thanks to a 12-0 run to end the half that was largely thanks to LaMelo Ball.
The Heat started the second half without Bam Adebayo or Kyle Lowry, and the relatively full strength Hornets took advantage. Gordon Hayward scored a quick 10 and the Hornets built a small lead. They took that into the fourth quarter, which featured the teams’ bench depth. Brandon Miller had a couple of nice buckets early on and the Hornets led for most of the fourth quarter, until the Cole Swider show started. He scored 11 points in less than two minutes to put the Heat on top with a minute to go. The Hornets couldn’t answer and lost.
The starters looked ready to go. The outside shooting wasn’t all the way there, but that’s to be expected at this point. The offense looked cohesive and generated good looks. The defense was well connected and forced a lot of jumpers.
Mark Williams was a defensive presence. He notched three steals and registered a pair of blocks. He was a presence on the defensive glass and looked like the deterrent the Hornets need him to be.
LaMelo Ball looked sharp and healthy. He had a couple of nice finishes around the basket and was his normal productive facilitator. The outside shot didn’t fall, but that’ll come.
Like LaMelo, Miller’s outside shot didn’t fall, but he didn’t look the part of a 20 year old playing in his first NBA action. He played more under control than we saw in the summer league and displayed his strong all around floor game. He turned the ball over four times, but most of those came early in the game when he got himself into trouble.
The bench struggled pretty badly at points. They just about lost the game in the first half by giving up the 20-0 run. They bounced back a bit in the second half, but eventually lost the game for good in the fourth quarter, though that was more attributable to the deep bench than guys that will be in the regular rotation.
Frank Ntilikina came out to send a message about his 3-point shooting, and that message was that he still can’t hit them. He took three quick attempts, and all missed badly. Edmond Sumner didn’t have the egregious misses, but he didn’t do anything to separate himself either. The Hornets need one of these guys to step up.
RJ Hunter had one really nice quick release 3-pointer. His other three shot attempts were really, really bad misses. He didn’t have any other contributions.
The Hornets will be right back at it again when they visit the Wizards on Wednesday night.