PJ Washington scored 25 points while Mark Williams and LaMelo Ball had double doubles to lead the Charlotte Hornets to a season opening win over the Atlanta Hawks, 116-110.
As one might expect, the game was very sloppy to start. Only one 3-pointer was made in the first quarter, and that was the rookie Brandon Miller’s first career shot attempt. The Hornets had a spell where they gave up five dunks in a row, mostly due to several consecutive turnovers. They dug themselves a double digit hole early in the second, but they wiped that away as the half drew to a close thanks to a hot scoring spurt by Terry Rozier.
The Hornets overtook the Hawks with a couple of LaMelo Ball 3-pointers early in the second half. He found Brandon Miller for his first career punch later in the quarter to help the Hornets to a comfortable-ish lead heading into the fourth quarter.
LAMELO X BRANDON MILLER LOB. 🔥— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 26, 2023
The Hornets gave the whole lead back early in the fourth quarter due to some sluggish offense and too many and-1 fouls defensively. They got it back again in the middle of the third quarter with eight quick points from Brandon Miller–two movement threes and a back cut–and PJ Washington’s lone 3-pointer of the night. After some back and forth, the Hornets put it away with floaters from Washington and Rozier.
PJ Washington was the good PJ. He scored 25 points and made 11 out of 12 shots from inside the 3-point line. He showed the same skills we saw in his 31 point preseason outburst. He bodied players on his way to the basket and created look for himself in the paint and short midrange. And he had this sweet self-assisted layup.
Mark Williams looks every bit the defensive stud Hornets fans hoped he would be. He had three steals, a block, and 15 rebounds, but his impact went far beyond the stat sheet. He defended the pick and roll masterfully and forced the Hawks into a lot of missed midrange jumpers, which is the shot the Hornets defense will be trying to force all season. I mean look at this man.
MARK WILLIAMS MY GOODNESS. 🔒— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) October 26, 2023
Brandon Miller did not look like a rookie playing his first career game. He got caught with a few quick fouls, but he adjusted quickly and made a positive impact on the game. He made his first career shot attempt, a 3-pointer fed to him by Terry Rozier.
He played under control and made good basketball plays, which is what we’ve come to expect out of him at this point. But after struggling with his shot in the preseason, he got hot in the regular season opener. He scored eight big points in the fourth quarter and hit two on-the-move 3-pointers that should make Hornets fans salivate.
With all the hullabaloo about players doing new things, Terry Rozier was his usual productive self. He scored 24 points, six assists, and five rebounds. He helped spur the second quarter run that got the Hornets back into the game before the half, and he hit a floater that all but iced the game late in the fourth.
Theo Maledon was thrust into the backup point guard spot due to injury and player movement and did well for himself. He didn’t make any earth shattering plays, but he kept the ship steady when the Hornets guards were getting a breather.
Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball both had rough moments. Ball was flat out bad in the first half. He was reckless with the dribble and didn’t get any of his outside shots to fall. He eventually got the threes to drop in the second half and ended up with a respectable stat line, but it was ugly there for a while.
Meanwhile Gordon Hayward kind of did the opposite. He was the best player on the floor before the first TV timeout but disappeared after that. He ended up with just 10 points and six turnovers.
Trae Young is a terribly unfun player to watch play basketball. He shot 15 free throws, many of which were a result of him baiting whistles instead of making pure basketball plays. He also was a major liability defensively at several points during the course of the game. All the better for the Hornets though.
The Hornets will stay at home and welcome the Detroit Pistons on Friday.