Hornets Take Advantage of Extra Work to Top Bulls
Charlotte Moves to 3-1 in Preseason after Locking in Last 6 Days
By Matt Rochinski
A well-rested Hornets squad came out strong out strong and never let up on both ends of the floor on their way to a 110-104 victory on Oct. 8 over Chicago at Spectrum Center. Kemba Walker led six Charlotte players scoring in double figures with 20 points, while also grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out two assists. With the win, the Hornets move to 3-1 in the preseason with one game remaining until Opening Night on Oct. 17 against Milwaukee at Spectrum Center.
With six days between preseason games, Head Coach James Borrego used the extra time to work on some key factors - continuing to get good ball movement leading to higher-percentage shots, implementing more defensive principals and attacking the glass as a collective unit - and it was evident the Hornets took note.
Charlotte jumped on top of the Bulls early sparked by 11 points from Jeremy Lamb in the first quarter. Lamb was all over the court for the Hornets, connecting from long range, mid-range, driving to the rack and even draining two free throws. Malik Monk was also impactful off the bench in the first, draining the only two treys he toll in four minutes of action. By quarter’s end, Charlotte held a 28-23 lead and would not trail the rest of the game.
“Lamb’s been pretty solid for us on both sides of the ball,” Borrego said. “He’s rebounding for us. He’s pushing the pace and playmaking for us. I’ve been really happy with his floor game. What he gives us defensively is a plus so he has to continue it. It’s a great challenge every night in the NBA, especially at that position. We moved him on the ball and got Kemba off the ball a little bit tonight which was a good look.”
While the Hornets were often left looking for other scoring options beside Walker last season, Borrego’s new-look offense gives multiple players the chance to step up at any time and they are taking full advantage. Walker was followed by Lamb (16), Cody Zeller (14), Monk (13) Marvin Williams (12) and Willy Hernangomez (11) in double-digit scoring. The Hornets know that minutes and points are still available in Borrego’s lineup and are all looking to take advantage.
“We’ve been moving the ball,” said Lamb. “Some nights I score. Some nights Kemba scores. Some nights (Miles) Bridges scores. It’s just a great offense for us.”
But it’s not just about offense for Charlotte. Borrego has said on numerous occasions that he wants to be a strong defensive team and through the first three quarters, before Coach JB opted for a younger lineup to close the game out in the fourth, the Hornets may have put forth their best defensive effort of the preseason. Through three quarters, the Hornets held a 91-76 lead and had outrebounded Chicago, 38-34, limited the Bulls to 13 assists to Charlotte’s 21 and forced 15 Bulls turnovers which the Hornets turned into 19 points. Meanwhile, Charlotte turned it over just 10 times leading to 11 Chicago points. By the end of the third stanza, the Hornets had built a 91-76 lead they turned over to the bench to close out.
“We put in a few more things this week having a few more practice days. There’s still plenty of things to clean up on, especially on the defensive end,” said Zeller. “We’re doing a couple of new things we aren’t quite used to yet, I think it’s going to be good for us once we get the hang of it, but it’s still going to take some time.”
Charlotte also got the effort on the glass Coach JB had been looking for, outrebounding the Bulls, 50-47, in the contest. Wing Nic Batum led the way with a game-high 12 rebounds, while all five Hornets starters grabbed at least four rebounds. In all, 12 Charlotte players grabbed at least one board, while seven had at least three.
The Hornets will now have four days between games before flying to Dallas to take on the Mavericks at 7 p.m. on Friday to close the preseason.