One game into the season, the high of preseason has quickly wore off. The Charlotte Hornets looked good for the first quarter and a half, but it was thanks to the "old ways" rather than the new, free flowing, stretched out offense. The Hornets earned an early lead because Al Jefferson was in All-NBA form, scoring 13 points in the first quarter and 17 in the first half. Jefferson scored at will because the Heat honored the 3-point shooting, but when the Hornets failed to convert from the 3-point line, Miami tightened down on Jefferson (who didn't play much in second half).
Game one was too much of last season's Hornets -- an over reliance on Jefferson and Walker, and an inability to contain more than one run by the Heat. Once Miami turned it up on both ends late in the second quarter, they found themselves in a groove that was hard to contain.
It's no secret how important 3-point shooting will be for the Hornets this season. Shooting 6-for-24 from beyond the arc is a bit uncharacteristic from Hornets of preseason, but it shows just how necessary it will be -- without it, other parts of the will have trouble opening up.
Clifford went with P.J. Hairston as the starting two guard, opting for size, outside shooting, and a bit of defense. The size and defense were there at times, but Hairston would shoot just 1-for-5 from the field, and finish with three points. There's going to be calls for Jeremy Lin or Jeremy Lamb (when he returns from injury) but Hairston should get at least a couple of games before any changes are made. Hairston got decent looks when he played, they just didn't fall (yes, this sounds familiar, but let's give him a chance). Lin will get calls to start, and maybe that happens eventually, but Clifford seems to prefer Lin off the bench.
The offense looked fairly stagnant until late in the 4th quarter, when Clifford went with Walker, Lin, Batum, Williams, and Zeller. Three straight 3-pointers (two from Batum, and one from Lin) made it a closer game, but the trio of Walker, Lin, and Batum opened up the offense a bit, and created more scoring opportunities than the Hornets had for prior to that point in the 2nd half. Had the Heat not stretched the lead to 18 earlier in the quarter, the Hornets might have been able to steal the win. Hopefully Clifford opts for more minutes with these three together.
It wasn't an ideal start, but it's not time to overreact. An opening game against Miami on the road is a tough for any team. What adjustments the Hornets make for the Atlanta Hawks on Friday is worth keeping an eye on.