Gordon Hayward scored 11 points while LaMelo ball reeled in 10 rebounds and dished out four assists in their Hornets debuts, but the Charlotte Hornets dropped their preseason opener to the Toronto Raptors, 111-100.
The Hornets, to no one’s surprise, looked very rusty and out of control in the game’s opening minutes. Devonte’ Graham turned the ball over twice; PJ Washington missed a layup, bricked a three, and turned the ball over; and Gordon Hayward threw a skip pass into the empty seats. The settled down and eventually went on a short spurt that was capped off by a Cody Zeller 3-pointer to build a nine point lead. Gordon Hayward scored his first bucket as a Hornet with a short fadeaway in the paint in transition. The run continued as LaMelo Ball and the rest of the bench unit filtered in. The Hornets scored 22 unanswered points before the Raptors finally broke the run. A cold spell let the Raptors climb back into the game a bit as the Hornets took a 32-23 lead into the first intermission.
The Hornets experimented with their small ball lineup with PJ Washington at the five and Miles Bridges at the four along with Hayward, Graham, and Terry Rozier. They played a sort of match-up zone in that alignment that gave the Raptors problems for a bit and looks like it could be very disruptive as everyone gets more in sync. The Raptors went on a run of their own that included several 3-pointers and gave them the lead about halfway through the second quarter. It was an ugly quarter, to say the least. At the half, the Hornets trailed 58-51.
The third quarter looked much the same as the first. The Hornets struggled to generate looks for themselves on offense, even against the Raptors reserves. The Raptors kept canning triples as their lead swelled as large as 19. The Hornets bench brigade helped spark some life. LaMelo Ball dropped a nifty behind the back dime to Miles Bridges:
A couple possessions later, Bridges threw down the hammer:
After three, the Hornets trailed by 11.
The Hornets used the fourth quarter to get a look at the deeper rotation pieces. Grant Riller knocked down a free throw early in the quarter to make himself the first Hornets rookie to register a point in the preseason. Vernon Carey Jr. got himself an easy dunk off a find from Nate Darling. Grant Riller blew by his defender to make an easy layup. Xavier Sneed splashed a couple triples. Nick Richards rolled in some free throws. The Raptors scored more points, but we’re focusing on the positives here.
LaMelo Ball wasn’t able to get a shot to drop, but he showed how impactful he can be otherwise. He was physical grabbing defensive boards and igniting transition opportunities out of them. Hayward was steady and efficient, notching four rebounds and two assists to go with his 11 points. Miles Bridges was arguably the Hornets best player on the night, scoring 12 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists. He was +6 on the night despite the Hornets dealing with a large deficit during a lot of his playing time. Bismack Biyombo scored 11 points without missing a shot from the field, though he did go just 1-of-6 from the free throw line.
On the other side, the Martin twins did not look the game changers they were last season. They over-dribbled on offense and seemed to overlook teammates for each other from time to time. The Hornets were outscored by 21 points with Cody Martin on the floor by 16 with Caleb Martin on the floor. PJ Washington had some ugly plays early, but he found his groove by the second half.
The Hornets will have a chance to make amends when they take on the Raptors in the Spectrum Center for a second time on Monday.