Despite Late Loss, Hornets Take Step Forward in South Beach
Taking down a loaded Heat squad was going to be a tall task even before the Hornets lost another rotational piece – this time, Terry Rozier – to an ankle sprain over the weekend. But the energy level and response Head Coach James Borrego saw from the rest of his players in the narrow 104-103 preseason defeat on Monday evening in Miami was night and day compared to their 30-point home loss to Memphis just four days ago.
“Fantastic game. I loved our approach,” said Borrego afterwards. “We came out, we competed. Our defense was much better tonight, our physicality was much better tonight, so we took a step forward tonight in general. Thought our guys competed, played hard, played the right way, moved the ball, shared it. I’m proud of their response. That’s all we’ve talked about the last couple days. We have to respond. We have to be better.”
Charlotte fell behind 11-3 early in the first quarter before turning on and then sustaining its productively frantic, frenzied play. The visitors managed to take a 13-point lead with four minutes remaining in the fourth, but Miami closed out its third consecutive win thanks to a game-sealing 16-2 stretch.
Still though, the Hornets won the rebounding battle, 48-46, after getting crushed by the Grizzlies in this category by 32 and held the Heat to just 42 points in the paint. Heat guard Tyler Herro, who entered the contest leading the NBA in preseason scoring, limped his way to seven points on 3-of-15 shooting, with much of his troubles attributed to the Charlotte defense.
While the finish was disappointing, the final result should be taken with a grain of salt as both teams went deep into their benches over the final few minutes. Rotation mainstays Miles Bridges (22 points, 10 rebounds, six assists), LaMelo Ball (19 points, eight rebounds and nine assists) and Cody Martin (15 points and three steals) all looked to be in regular season form.
“Those [young] guys, we’re going to be able to teach off this,” added Borrego. “They’re going to learn some valuable lessons out of those three minutes. As I told them in the locker room, I’m going to focus on the first forty-five minutes, but we’ll get in tomorrow and those young guys will watch those minutes and get better. It’s a great tool and a great lesson for them.”
The Hornets will now close out their preseason schedule at home against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, Oct. 13 beginning at 7 PM ET. “We just want to come out with the same intensity we came here with,” said Bridges, when asked about the team’s objective in the finale. “If we play hard and we do the right things like we did today, I feel like we’ll have a good chance to win against any team.”