Coming out of the gate, it looked as if the Charlotte Hornets left their offensive mojo in San Antonio, where they finished a grueling six-game road trip. The team was shaky coming out of the gate, making just one of their first six shots. With the Kings being known for their quick pace this year, they took full advantage of this poor play and was able to capture a double-digit lead within a few minutes of the contest.
It looked like this would be yet another game of the Hornets playing down to the level of their competition. They didn’t have the same physicality and drive coming out as they did against the Spurs just three days ago.
Luckily, head coach James Borrego knew what buttons to press, and released center Willy Hernangomez midway through the first quarter.
Hernangomez played out of his conventional offensive-minded self. He was focused on a whole new area of his game: rebounding. Understanding the matchup assignments he was up against, Hernangomez was able to make the most out of his ability on the glass. he was able to effectively size-up against centers Willie Cauley-Stein and Harry Giles, and have large success doing so.
This glass cleaning effort turned the tide of the game in the Hornets favor. They were able to stop any second-chance point opportunities, which lead to many fast break opportunities on the other end. A clear step in the right direction, this “coming out party” in the rebounding department could become a statement game in determining not only his current role on the team but as a long-term option beyond this season.
Hernangomez wasn’t alone in this effort tonight. Rookie Miles Bridges showcased why he was worthy of a lottery selection in the 2018 NBA Draft. He, along with Hernangomez, was able to establish themselves on the floor the moment they stepped into the painted line.
Bridges, in particular, looked to be on a mission. Excelling in one-on-one defensive positioning proved to be a true obstacle for the Kings’ to climb over. Both Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic had a march harder time shooting the ball with Bridges inserted on the court.
For Bridges, his defense wasn’t the only factor generating buzz.
In the first quarter, he threw down one of the most outrageous dunks of 2019 so far.
With a dunk like this, I can’t wait to see him soar like that during All-Star weekend!
Bridges finished the game with fifteen points off 67 percent from the floor. Able to use his slasher’s mentality throughout many sequences of the game became a true source of point production. Although his outside shot is still not there yet, made one of three tonight, it is still an interesting aspect of his game to keep an eye on.
It was truly exciting to see the impact that players outside of the typical combo, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, could have for the Hornets. In this game, they didn’t have to rely on their leaders as much as in other outings. If the team’s role players were to continually step up to this level of success, it will then open up an avenue of more opportunities for the team on both areas of the floor.
The Charlotte Hornets were able to regain the momentum late in the first half in large part due to their complimentary pieces. Both Willy Hernangomez and Miles Bridges showcased what they are capable of on the court. Although consistency is needed to help this narrative afloat, it is most certainly a step in the right direction.
The Hornets are off Friday and will be playing the Phoenix Suns on Saturday, as they hope to sweep the season series against them.