NBA Summer League: Hornets 104, Pelicans 75

by Jim Eichenhofer

LAS VEGAS – A battle between the new Hornets and the former Hornets in summer league went decisively to the originators of the nickname, with Charlotte rolling to a high-scoring victory over New Orleans. The 23rd-seeded Hornets used a prolific offensive performance to build a big early lead; after the Pelicans got back within striking distance, the rebranded, teal and purple squad regained command.

Charlotte (2-3) advanced to Saturday’s quarterfinal round of the second-ever NBA Summer League tournament, while New Orleans (2-2) will play in Friday’s consolation round. That game will conclude the Pelicans’ participation in Las Vegas.

New Orleans was paced Thursday by 19 points apiece overall from Russ Smith and Courtney Fells, but Charlotte was able to build an early 21-point lead. The advantage eventually stretched to 30-plus in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Abdul Gaddy (14 points) was a third Pelican in double-digit scoring.

The Hornets set the tone by racking up 34 points in the first quarter and 52 in the opening half. In a league that uses a 40-minute game instead of the NBA’s standard 48, it’s rare for a team to eclipse the century mark in scoring, but Charlotte did so with 2:26 remaining.

“They came out with a lot of intensity,” said Fells, who's 11-for-20 from three-point range since Sunday. “I felt like we never got going. We came out flat. We had spurts, but we couldn’t put a complete game together, and they did. You’ve got to take our hats off to them, because they did a great job.”

“They shot the ball extremely well,” Smith said of the Hornets. “They were making some very difficult shots, but you have to give them credit. That’s the name of the game – putting the ball in the basket. It kind of got to us a bit, but they held on the entire game and we just couldn’t get into it.”

In addition to his 19 points, Smith registered five rebounds and six assists, improving his league-leading total in the latter statistic to 29 (an average of 7.3 per game). The second-round draft pick and his Pelicans teammates will play in the consolation round Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, with tip-off at 7 p.m. Central (time subject to change).

“I never took days off at Louisville,” Smith said of competing hard Friday despite the Pelicans being eliminated from tournament contention Thursday. “We finished out every game hard, every practice hard. I’m looking forward to playing tomorrow and ending on a good note.”