Miles Bridges put up a career-high 23pts while Cody Zeller added 19pts and 14rebs in a 120-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
The Charlotte Hornets got off to a solid start, leading 15-8 after going into the first media break on a 10-2 run. Cody Zeller and Terry Rozier ran a smooth two-man game that got both of them, along with others, some open looks from outside. The threes-and-layups philosophy of James Borrego has made itself apparent in the early-season. It’s either get to the rim, shoot a three, or turn it over.
The Lakers fed Anthony Davis early and often. He had 16pts and 5rebs in the first quarter, getting whatever he wanted inside. It wasn’t anyone’s fault in particular, the Hornets just don’t have the interior defense to deal with a player like him. Cody did all he can, to the tune of 11pts on 5-5 FG, 4rebs, and 2blks. Outside of him, Terry, and Miles, the only player to score was Devonte’ with three free throws to end the first quarter.
PJ Washington got the second quarter going with a dunk off of a nice find from Graham, who is beginning to look like the team’s best playmaker. Rozier got with in foul trouble again, having to sit with three fouls and 6:51 left in the first half, while Graham continued to show out despite no longer going scorched earth from three. Rozier is a worthy starter, but he’s struggled to show it so far, and Graham taking the spotlight certainly doesn’t help his cause. Zeller and Davis got tied up with 2:10 left going for a rebound that drew blood from Zeller, who left for the locker room. The Hornets actually played good defense on everyone not named Anthony Davis, and went into the break down 63-62 off the strength of 17 first-half free throws.
Bismack Biyombo started the second half for the wounded Zeller, and the Hornets broke the third-quarter curse they’d had through the first two games. Dwayne Bacon showed off his full repertoire with a three, a step-back mid-range jumper, and a nice alley-oop from Terry. Zeller made his presence felt when he returned, snagging multiple offensive boards that lead to Hornets’ buckets and finishing the quarter with 17pts and 10rebs. Every time it seemed like the Lakers would go on a run, either Zeller would make a play on D or Dwayne Bacon would hit a big shot. They’re not without their issues (turnovers, interior defense, etc.), but so far, this team has been extremely scrappy and energetic. As I’ve stated before, that’s all we can ask for at this stage.
The fourth started with the Hornets down 87-80, still in position to steal a win on the road; until LeBron decided it was time to go say goodnight. A quick 14-2 run put the Hornets down 101-82 with 8:25 remaining and the garbage time minutes began. Cody and Caleb Martin both got some run, as did Willy Hernangomez.
Overall, this was a pretty good game for Charlotte in spite of the loss. Their defense looked much-improved outside of the lack of a paint protector, and they turned the ball over less (13 compared to their 19.5 per game average). The Terry-Devonte’ backcourt combination looks like something that’ll work long-term, which makes Borrego’s job a lot easier when trying to put a smaller, faster lineup on the floor. These are the types of losses that you want a young team to have; play well enough for it to be a close game, and still come out of the loss having a clear picture of what you have to improve on.
It’s a quick turnaround Charlotte, who will be in Staples Center again tomorrow night to play the Clippers at 10:30pm EDT. If they play with the same effort as tonight, they might have another chance to make it close on the road against a really good team.