Brandon Miller scored a career high 22 points but the Charlotte Hornets otherwise struggled in a very sloppy loss to the shorthanded Brooklyn Nets, 133-121.
I didn’t get to watch the first quarter because of prior obligations and Bally going off the rails. But from what I can tell, the Nets made all of their shots and the Hornets did not. The Hornets found themselves in an early 21 point hole that they’d need to spend the entire second quarter trying to climb out of. To their credit, they almost did, mostly on the shoulders of Brandon Miller and his 11 second quarter points. After narrowing the deficit to as little as six, the Hornets went into the half down by 11.
The Hornets undid some of that momentum with two bad turnovers in their first two possessions after LaMelo Ball lost his dribble then PJ Washington threw a pass to a crowd of Nets. They steadied the ship after that point, but they never really did anything to threaten the game. They didn’t get any stops and just traded baskets the rest of the way.
Brandon Miller looks like he’s already one of the best players on the roster. His competitiveness and focus stood out when the Hornets were making their second quarter push. He scored on all three levels of the court and made impact plays defensively. He was decisive as a driver and got to the free throw line off the dribble on multiple occasions. He finished the game with a career high 22 points along with nine rebounds and two assists. He now leads all rookies in scoring.
Mark Williams made a big impact offensively. He took advantage of the undersized Nets for like seven dunks. He only played 23 minutes, but I think that’s more a product of something we’ll talk about later.
The focus on both ends of the floor. The Nets got a huge chunk of their offense on the fast break. When the Hornets did make them play in the half court, they kept biting on pump fakes and fouling jump shooters and were slow to help the free runs the Nets were getting after beating the Hornets off the dribble. After fighting to make a game of it late in the first half, the Hornets came out of the break and two egregiously sloppy turnovers on their first two possessions.
LaMelo Ball was bad bad. He fouled out mostly by grabbing at guys that were blowing by him on the perimeter. The foul trouble limited his playing time, and he badly struggled with putting the ball in the basket when he was on the floor. Hopefully he just needs more time to shake the rust off, because these first three games have been rough.
Even when he had success scoring, Terry Rozier hamstrung the offense with too much dribbling and slow decisions with the ball. With LaMelo Ball’s limited playing time due to foul trouble, Rozier needs to do a much better job getting players involved in the flow of the offense. He can get his shots, but it’d benefit everyone if it came after a few passes instead of seven or eight dribbles.
The defensive game plan was disappointing. The Nets were without starting center Nic Claxton, and backup center Day’Ron Sharpe only played five minutes because of foul trouble. Instead of asserting their size advantage, the Hornets played small to match the Nets. Williams often found himself checking perimeter players like Royce O’Neale or Dorian Finney-Smith while the forwards took on Ben Simmons. You’d think the most sensible plan would be for Williams to ‘guard’ Simmons by hanging around the basket and daring him to shoot the ball from outside the paint. But that didn’t seem like a plan the Hornets were interested in trying.
The Hornets have to shape up. That’s two disappointing losses in a row where the Hornets have seemingly played below their talent level. They’ll have to figure it out on the road though. They travel to take on the Rockets on Wednesday, who have yet to win a game.