Bridges Impresses but Hornets Defense Falters in 4th vs Spurs

By Matt Rochinski

Heading into the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2019, the Hornets expected to lean on veterans Dwayne Bacon, Miles Bridges and Devonte’ Graham. After seeing Bacon and Graham shine offensively with 25 and 21 points, respectively, in Charlotte’s 93-85 victory over Golden State on Friday in Las Vegas, it was Bridges who stepped up against San Antonio on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center despite the Hornets 106-96 loss to the Spurs.

Bridges came out aggressive and stayed aggressive throughout the contest, finishing with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-14 shooting (57.1 percent), including 4-of-9 from behind the arc while also grabbing a team-high-tying seven rebounds and swiping a game-high three steals. His 44.9 percent shooting from outside the arc was an encouraging sign following his 0-of-3 line from three-point range in the summer opener.

Bridges tried to set the tone early in the contest, scoring 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including 2-of-3 from three-point range, to go with two rebounds and two steals. He kept up the intensity throughout and even brought the Thomas & Mack Center crowd to its feet with a driving, one-handed throw down dunk over Luka Samanic that brought Charlotte to within 57-56 in the third quarter.

“I thought Miles did okay,” Hornets Summer League Head Coach Ron Nored said after the loss. “I don’t think our guys played at the highest level today, and that’s okay because that happens here. I told them in there after the game, ‘We’re trying to get better and we need you to do some things out here that we want to see you do in an NBA game.’ I think the thing that Miles did well - he screen-and-rolled a little more today that he did the other night. We want to see a little bit more of that. I wish we were a little better defensively and a little more locked in.”

Nored was looking for a better defensive effort from the Hornets, particularly in the deciding fourth quarter, where they allowed a 12-2 run to turn a 79-78 Charlotte lead into a 90-81 San Antonio advantage. By quarter’s end, the Hornets would see the Spurs outscore them 32-26 while outshooting them 66.7 percent (10-of-15) to 40.0 percent (10-of-25) and outrebounding Charlotte, 12-6 in the frame.

Despite the loss, the Hornets also got a solid showing from 2019 second-round draft pick, Cody Martin. After being held in check with three points in his summer debut against the Warriors, Martin picked up his intensity on both ends of the court, finishing with 15 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field (50.0 percent), including 3-of-5 (60.0 percent) from long range, and also grabbed three rebounds, handed out one assist, swiped a steal and blocked a shot.

“I talked to him before the game (tonight) and told him it was only his first game (on Friday). I thought in Game 1 he was trying to figure it out and find his way,” said Nored. “I told him, ‘Just be aggressive.’ Not necessarily aggressive to score, but aggressive to make decisions, aggressive to get into pick-and-rolls and to be aggressive defensively. I thought he picked that up today. He’s a kid that is going to just keep getting better over the course of this summer league and we’ll see some good stuff when the season comes around.”

The Hornets also had to be impressed with Josh Perkins performance. After being held out of Friday’s contest, Perkins led the Hornets reserves with 14 points, including 4-of-7 treys (57.1 percent), to go with a team-high-tying five assists as well as two steals and a rebound.

“I was really impressed with Josh, especially after not playing yesterday,” said Nored. “He kind of hung his head, but he stuck with it and came in and made shots and helped us try to win.”

Bacon followed up his 25-point performance with 14 points on 4-of-10 shooting (40.0 percent) from the field in 27 minutes.

Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon tied for the Spurs team lead with 19 points apiece.

Charlotte next takes on China at 11 p.m. EST on Monday at Cox Pavilion. Watch the game on ESPNU.