Zeller, Bacon, Washington Step Up as Hornets Refuse to Fold
Charlotte Fights Through Early Double-Digit Deficit in Loss
Among the four pillars Head Coach James Borrego is stressing for the Hornets in 2019-20 are to compete and build winning habits. Despite seeing his team fall behind by 19 points in the first quarter to Philadelphia in Winston-Salem, Borrego and Hornets fans have to be encouraged at how Charlotte elevated its level of competition the rest of the contest and refused fold. The Hornets outscored Philadelphia, 73-67, in the final three quarters before falling 100-87 to the 76ers.
Dwayne Bacon led all five starters in double figures with 17 points, followed by Cody Zeller (12), Miles Bridges (12), Terry Rozier (10) and rookie PJ Washington (10 points his first NBA start).
The 76ers took advantage of this one early, shooting 61.9 percent (13-of-21) from the field led by nine points from Ben Simmons. On the other side of the court, Charlotte struggled from the field, connecting on just 33.3 percent (6-of-18) of its attempts. But Philadelphia didn’t build its 33-14 first-quarter lead on offense alone. The Hornets also had difficulty protecting the ball against the 76ers early pressure, turning it over nine times, leading to 14 Philadelphia points.
Looking for a spark, Charlotte turned to one of its more veteran players in Cody Zeller, who scored the Hornets first six points of the quarter to cut the 76ers lead to 36-20. He finished the quarter with eight points and six rebounds, giving him 12 first-half points to go with five rebounds.
While Zeller’s energy fueled Charlotte early in the quarter, youngster Dwayne Bacon began to click later in the frame. After being held scoreless in the first quarter, Bacon tallied eight points by adhering to the style of play Borrego is expecting and attacking the rim. Bacon hit all four of his free throws and also knocked down 2-of-5 shots from the field.
After Charlotte’s first-half struggles, it buckled down defensively the rest of the way, holding Philadelphia to 25-of-62 (40.3 percent) from the field and forcing 16 Sixers turnovers in quarters two through four. After being outscored 14-2 in points off turnovers in the first frame, the Hornets still finished with a 23-18 advantage there.
Charlotte also had to be encouraged that its young core continues to fill the stat sheet. Bridges (seven rebounds), Zeller (six), Washington (five) and Bacon (five) not only all scored in double-figures, but also grabbed 5+ boards. Bridges, Washington and Zeller all also added three assists apiece, while Washington’s impressive rookie performance included a game-high four steals and two blocks.
Devonte’ Graham (eight points and a team-high five assists) and rookie Caleb Martin (seven points, five rebounds) also had impressive showings off the bench for Charlotte as the Hornets closed the game strong despite its early struggles.
The Hornets now head to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies at 8 p.m. on Monday. Watch the game on Fox Sports Southwest or listening on WFNZ or the Hornets App.