LaMelo Ball had 32 points, but the rest of the Charlotte Hornets struggled as they were blown out by the New York Knicks, 129-108.
The Knicks scored seven points before the Hornets even sent a shot towards the rim. The Hornets steadied themselves with a LaMelo Ball three and played most of the rest of the first quarter pretty evenly. Brandon Miller had the best start to a game so far in his career with 11 quick points, but he had to leave the game after landing on a foot. The Knicks closed the quarter hot and went up 32-25 on a buzzer beater to end the first quarter.
The Miller departure degraded the Hornets rotation and offensive output to shambles. There were stints with Ish Smith and Theo Maledon as the guard rotation, and the Hornets predictably could not generate any sort of offense whatsoever outside of LaMelo Ball getting hot and taking over the game for a spell in the second quarter. Before the game could get away from them, the Hornets finished with a flurry to end the half that was predictably spurred by Ish Smith and Leaky Black, who scored his first career points.
The Knicks started the second half with another 7-0 run while PJ Washington tried and failed to get his offense going. The margin quickly ballooned to 20 points, with the Hornets the victim of some unfortunate whistles and hot Knicks shooting. They were badly overmatched talent-wise and the game continued to get out of hand over the course of the second half.
LaMelo Ball continues to play like a superstar. He topped 30 points for the third time in four games and 25 points for the fourth straight game. He deserved more than the six assists he finished with, but none of his teammates could find their shooting touch. His play is notably more under control and savvy then we’ve seen to start his career. If LaMelo continues to play like this when the rest of the roster gets healthy, he’s going to be a major problem.
Leaky Black played a few minutes, blocked a shot, and got his first career bucket. In a game where not much good happened, it was cool to see a local kid get a shot and score a bucket. He hit a three in garbage time as well.
Amari Bailey made his first career field goal with a jumper at the buzzer to pull the Hornets within 22 points.
The injuries. Brandon Miller looked like he was on his way to his best game as a pro, but it was cut short when he landed on Josh Hart’s foot and left the game. He’ll be the third important rotation player to be added to the injury report. Hopefully it’s a short term injury.
With all of the players out hurt, the Hornets badly needed at least one of Gordon Hayward or PJ Washington to step up on the offensive side of the ball. Neither did. They combined for 10 points on 4-of-17 shooting with four turnovers. It doesn’t need saying, but that’s absolutely not good enough from the guys that were the second and third best offensive players available for the Hornets in this game.
He’s a thrust into a role he shouldn’t be in, but Theo Maledon tried to do too much. He attempted 12 shots in the 20 minutes he played before the Hornets cleared the bench and only made two of them. If the shots present themselves, he has to take them, but he put up too many tough looks that he didn’t need to take. Again, part of this is situational, but still an area for improvement.
The Hornets lack of offensive firepower should have been offset a smidge by players more known for their defense, but that wasn’t the case. They gave up 99 points in the first three quarter. The Knicks made some tough shots and the whistles were definitely in New York’s favor, but it wasn’t a good enough effort on this end.
The Hornets will have a day off then play their second In-Season Tournament game on Tuesday at home against the Heat. They’ll play another tournament game on Friday against the Bucks.