New Hornets Starting Lineup Stands Out in Preseason Win Over OKC
Shortly before the Hornets headed west for Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon, Head Coach James Borrego spoke about how Monday’s preseason opener against the Thunder would be a great indicator of where things stood at this point of the ramping-up process.
Yes, it took place against a young, rebuilding OKC squad in a contest that didn’t count from a win-loss standpoint, but Charlotte still flashed plenty of positives to be happy with in its 113-97 preseason-opening victory at Paycom Center.
LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges and Mason Plumlee comprised the team’s opening unit, a change from last season, when PJ Washington was the first-string four over Bridges. The group rode its defensive play to a sizeable early lead, with Charlotte eventually utilizing a second-quarter-closing 10-0 run to enter halftime up 22. Oklahoma City would not draw any closer than 15 after that.
“Overall, I thought our mentality was in the right place,” said Borrego afterwards. “We shared the ball, moved the ball. I don’t know who is going to score any given night, but I thought in the first half, we did a great job moving the ball, playing with great pace. I had us close to 30 points in transition. I think collectively the group moved it.”
On the new-look starting lineup, “They looked comfortable to me. Obviously, it’s our first game, their first time together. We’ll learn as we go. There are obviously things we have to clean up and look at. But for this early in the season, I thought the ball moved well. Defensively, they were talking, communicating, trying to get stops. They’re forming an identity as a starting unit. For us to be a good team, our starting unit has to get off to good starts defensively.”
As for the overall good, rookie James Bouknight scored 20 points on an efficient 7-of-12 shooting, Ball added 15 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals and Washington and Jalen McDaniels combined for 26 points and 11 boards off the bench. Charlotte also ended up shooting 49% and held the Thunder to just 38% from the field.
And in the not-so-good department, the Hornets connected on just 9-of-33 three-point attempts (27%) and committed 22 turnovers. Kelly Oubre Jr. also exited the game in the third quarter with a right lower leg strain after an awkward fall on a dunk attempt. Borrego stated after the game that Oubre was “day-to-day, nothing serious right now.”
Overall though, it was a fairly encouraging night for the Hornets as their new starting lineup paved the way for a near wire-to-wire win. From here, the team heads back home to begin prepping for its preseason home opener against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, Oct. 7 starting at 7 PM EDT.