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Hornets lay an egg against Team China, lose 84-80

The Hornets played a lot of bad basketball in this one.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - China v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

This game was not worth staying up until nearly 2:00 a.m. Eastern time to watch. The Charlotte Hornets played sloppy basketball for the majority of the game’s 40 minutes and lost to a previously winless Chinese National Team, 84-80.

Jalen McDaniels scored the first four points of the game, including two on a nifty lob on the team’s first offensive set. He and Kulboka showed very well in the first quarter. The latter dribbled into a transition 3-pointer and hit a nice turnaround on the baseline. Other than those brief flashes, the Hornets meandered their way through the first quarter with little in the way of impressive basketball. China closed the quarter on a run, and the Hornets ended the quarter down by three.

The second quarter started just as poorly as the first one ended. Team China scored the first five points of the quarter before Robert Franks ended the run with a 3-pointer. It didn’t stem the tide though, as Team China looked much more composed than the Hornets team full of NBA hopefuls. The Hornets offense was disjointed, with little in the way of meaningful ball movement or productive shots. At the half, the Hornets had committed 14 fouls and had been out-rebounded 20-12. A team full of NBA caliber athletes should not have that problem against Team China. As a result, the Hornets entered halftime trailing 45-38.

The Hornets came out of the half and promptly gave up a runway for a Chinese dunk on their first defensive possession. It didn’t get better. Jalen McDaniels and Josh Perkins each had unforced turnovers where they lost their dribble out of bounds. Cody Martin threw the ball straight to a Chinese player with nary a Hornet in sight. Team China continued to outwork the Hornets on the boards. It was bad. Bad bad bad bad bad. Arnoldas Kulboka provided the only bright spot in the quarter. He scored six straight points and even brought the Hornets within five points for a brief spell. He had 15 points after three quarters, but the Hornets still trailed 66-56.

After falling behind by 12 early in the fourth quarter, Joe Chealey scored or assisted on the Hornets next ten points to help bring the Hornets back within five and force a Team China timeout. The former College of Charleston standout orchestrated a Hornets comeback that got the team within one possession on a couple of occasions, but the team struggled to get the necessary stops to get over the hump.

Cody Martin came up with a big steal and Chealey got fouled on the ensuing run out, but he only hit one of the two free throws, meaning the Hornets still trailed by two with 30 seconds to go. The Hornets got the stop they needed on the defensive end, but Zhou Qi out-muscled Isaiah Hicks for an offensive rebound. The Hornets caught a break with Guo Ailun missing a pair of free throws that could’ve iced the game, but they couldn’t capitalize. Summer League coach Ronald Nored drew up a very good lob play for Jalen McDaniels, but Cody Martin overthrew the pass and it was stolen by China. Zhao Jiwei made both of the free throws to ice the game.

It was an embarrassing performance for players trying to make an NBA roster. Team China outplayed the Hornets on both ends of the court and, perhaps more importantly, physically dominated the game. For the majority of the game, Team China nearly doubled up the Hornets in total rebounds and were grabbing their own offensive rebounds at about a 40% rate.

Centers Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks did not look like NBA players. Meeks in particular struggled mightily with Zhou Qi, who frequently lost the former Tar Heel on the perimeter.

Cody Martin’s summer league struggles continued. He shot 2-for-7 from the field and committed five turnovers, including the backbreaker in the game’s waning moments.

Arnoldas Kulboka and Joe Chealey were the bright spots in an otherwise poor team performance. Kulboka scored 18 points on 12 shots and showed off his smooth shooting stroke on several occasions. Chealey was quiet in the first half but almost single handedly orchestrated the Hornets comeback in the fourth quarter both as a scorer and a distributor.

The Hornets will try to get this bad taste out of their mouths against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday afternoon.