Recap/Analysis: Hornets lose to Knicks despite big nights from LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller scored a career high 29 points and LaMelo Ball chipped in 34, but the Charlotte Hornets didn’t get enough from elsewhere as they dropped another game to the New York Knicks, 122-108.


The Hornets dug into a hole early. Jalen Brunson started the game hot, and the Hornets found themselves on down 20-9 just over five minutes into the game. The Hornets found their defensive stride after the timeout they took to stop the run and held the Knicks to just 10 points for the rest of the quarter. They did a good job rebounding as a team and tipping the ball away from the Knicks active bigs on the offensive glass. The offensive struggled though, so the Hornets went into the second still down 11.

After some bricklaying, the Hornets went on a little mini-run that featured a funky floater from Brandon Miller and this LaMelo to Miller halfcourt alley-oop.

Jalen Brunson’s return to the game stopped any Knicks struggles. He drew whistles and got buckets. The Hornets kept pace thanks to a strong stretch of play from Brandon Miller, then back to back lobs from Ball to Miles Bridges pulled the Hornets as close as five. After a couple of buckets to end the half, the Knicks led by 11.

The Hornets made another push in the third quarter, again thanks in large part to Brandon Miller catching fire. He hit three 3-pointers and a nice almost no-look floater. But every time the Hornets looked like they were threatening, the Knicks got a bucket from Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, or Donte DiVincenzo. The Hornets only made up two points of ground in that third quarter.

The fourth quarter was more of the same. LaMelo hit a couple of threes and tried to start a run, but the Knicks had an answer, usually from three, every step of the way. The Hornets never threatened for real, so the fourth quarter ended up mostly being a bunch of stat padding for both sides.

The Good

Brandon Miller. We were robbed of his good start against the Knicks on Sunday when he twisted his ankle. He picked up where he left off in this one. He was aggressive with his dribble and scored in every area of the floor. His mid range jumper has looked pure all season. Tonight, he hit a career high five 3-pointers, most of which came during a hot streak during the third quarter. His demeanor during that quarter was notable too. You could see him trying to fire teammates up and his confidence was palpable.

LaMelo Ball was incredible once again. He scored over 30 for the fifth time in seven games and hit a career high eight 3-pointers. He’s playing so under control and he’s finding ways to use his creativity to get shots off around the basket while playing with better pace. He’s averaging 31.4 points per game over those seven games, the seventh best mark in the league. He’s playing like a superstar again, and on top of that, we’re seeing more winning plays from him. He dove on the floor a couple of times chasing after loose balls and had some big box outs and rebounds on the defensive glass.

Miles Bridges had another solid game. He scored 19 points on 12 shots off the bench.

The Hornets let Mitchell Robinson pull in 10 offensive rebounds, but they did a good job of not letting that turn into Kincks points. The Knicks only got 11 second chance points out of those boards, just two more than the Hornets registered on the night.

The Bad

PJ Washington and Gordon Hayward had their second consecutive pair of horrific performances. Hayward made his first shot just over two minutes into the game and didn’t make another shot from the field. Washington meanwhile didn’t score until he hit a three in garbage time with under a minute to play. The two combined to shoot 2-of-17 from the field and 1-of-9 from three. Over the last two games, they have scored a total of 12 points in 120 minutes on 4-of-29 shooting from the field and 2-of-15 from three. They’ve both made exactly one shot from the field in each of the last two games. I don’t think any team in the league can win consistently with play that poor from two starters, especially those are supposed to be rather significant contributors. The Hornets can’t really do much about it other than hope both come out of their funk soon before the Hornets lose too many games.

You can see the shooting struggles getting into PJ’s head. He turned the ball over six times, and a fair amount of them were him playing too fast and then trying to bail himself out from taking a shot at the last second. His shots are at least close though. Hayward just doesn’t look comfortable shooting the ball, and he had a few really, really bad misses.

I have no statistical backing for this (yet), but it feels like the Hornets going zone far too often leads to warmup jumpers for good shooters. They didn’t use it a whole lot in this one, but when they did, it felt like it didn’t take too much for the Knicks to get wide open looks or mismatches.

The Knicks travel a lot but don’t get called for it very often. They play ugly basketball. It’s almost like college basketball with better players. Just lots of funky post ups and brute force basket attacks. It’s working for them I guess though.

What’s Next

The Hornets will watch football on Sunday then take on the Boston Celtics on Monday. The Boston Celtics are the best team in the league so far by a pretty substantial margin.

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