The Charlotte Hornets held on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 88-87, in the first game of the Las Vegas Summer League. Malik Monk led the Hornets with 23 points on 9-for-16 shooting, while Willy Hernangomez finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Fans got exactly what they wanted early in the first, as Monk started off with 11 quick points. He knocked down three from behind the arc and finished a dunk after cutting to the basket.
Monk carried the rest of the Hornets in the first quarter, as the rest of the team struggled to make shots. He made two more late in the quarter, including a buzzer beater from just inside the 3-point line. Despite the 15 points, Charlotte trailed entering the second quarter.
Oklahoma City continued to lead for much of the second quarter, as Charlotte turned it over a bit too much and struggled to defend in transition.
But after going down eight, Charlotte quickly cut the deficit down to four, thanks to two free throws from Arnoldas Kulboka (who finished with 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting for the game), and a sweet alley-oop by B.J. Johnson.
OKC’s lead remained around four the rest of the half. Charlotte made a few good plays but couldn’t re-take the lead, and the Thunder entered halftime leading, 50-47.
Miles Bridges got more involved in the offense early in the third quarter. He took a lot of open 3’s, but failed to knock down any of them. He did, however, have one nice alley-oop off a pass from Dwayne Bacon. Bridges finished with six points, but made just 2-for-14 from the field.
Speaking of Bacon, the second year man scored eight straight points midway through the third to give Charlotte the lead again. Charlotte was able to hold on to it for the rest of the quarter, and led by three entering the fourth.
The score remained close in the final minutes. Hernangomez, despite an overall poor game shooting (3-for-10), remained aggressive offensively. He knocked down two free throws, then converted an And-1 on the following possession.
OKC had a chance to go ahead with half a minute remaining, but Devonte Graham forced a turnover and then was fouled, sending him to the line. He converted both, giving Charlotte a two point lead.
The Thunder tied it on the ensuing possession, but Hernangomez drew a foul off a rebound with three seconds to go. He made one of two, giving OKC a chance to win it, but the Thunder turned it over off the inbounds pass, giving Charlotte the win.
It was a solid first game for the team. We got the Monk offensive explosion we were craving, and the Hornets won a close game.
Some other general thoughts:
- Devonte’ Graham showed great court vision, kicking the ball ahead on the break three or four times for easy buckets in the game. One went the full length of the floor to Monk, who finished with an easy layup.
- Kulboka showed a lot of composure and a good feel for the game. For the 55th pick, he looked far ahead of where I expected him to be.
- Bacon was selective in his shot selection, but the eight point spurt was fun. He looked comfortable throughout the game.
- Bridges didn’t shoot well from outside, but he was aggressive attacking the hoop and going for offensive boards.
- Hernangomez will hopefully shoot better from beyond the arc in the days ahead. He was 0-for-4 today, and non were close.
The Hornets will play next on Sunday against the Miami Heat at 5:00 p.m. EST.