Devonte’ Graham found Terry Rozier on a nice backdoor cut to the rim for the game’s first bucket. In the opening minutes, the Hornets were rebounding on both ends, playing solid defense, and moving the ball well but just couldn’t find the bottom of the net. Thankfully, Terry came out of the gates hot and scored 12 of Charlotte’s first 14 points, giving them a 14-4 lead at the first media break.
LaMelo Ball came in for Devonte’ as the first sub and the offense continued flowing, and Cody Zeller even flashed some improved off-the-dribble scoring. LaMelo canned back-to-back corner threes in the final minute of the opening frame, propelling the Hornets to a 32-18 lead. Terry had 14 points and four rebounds while LaMelo added eight points.
The second quarter started with coach James Borrego throwing 3-2 zone defense at the Magic with a small-ball lineup on the floor, which didn’t look bad, though it didn’t last very long. Orlando’s offense picked up eventually, sending them on a 16-2 run before PJ Washington buried a three to make it 40-34 in favor of Charlotte. LaMelo and Malik Monk each hit a three in subsequent possessions before Caleb Martin came in and showed some nice flashes of difficult shot-making, scoring eight points in six minutes.
Steve Clifford, for some reason, felt compelled to challenge a foul call in a pre-season game with 3:03 left in the first half and the Hornets leading 59-52, but we can’t really blame him because it got overturned. Overall, the offense looked really solid in the first half as the team shot 50 percent from the floor and only turned the ball over five times. The Hornets took a 68-58 lead into the break, and Terry led all scorers with 16 points. LaMelo added 11 points and Devonte’ had 10 points and five dimes.
Nikola Vučević and Cody Zeller each hit a three to open the second half. Orlando went on a 9-3 run to start the third quarter and forced a Charlotte timeout, and Vučević put up 12 points in under seven minutes in what was easily the Hornets’ worst stretch of the night. The good rebounding from the first quarter was non-existent and their defensive rotations were a step slower, but at least the defense picked back up.
Orlando’s second delay of game warning gave the Hornets a technical free throw, which Terry made to put them up 87-81 with 2:41 to go in the third. Some really strong defense to close the quarter gave Charlotte a 99-88 edge heading into the final frame.
Miles Bridges air-balled a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter, though Cody Martin was right underneath the rim to catch it and lay it in, so let’s just call it a pass from Miles. The Hornets kept giving up second chance points—which was the only reason this was semi-close game—but they still led 101-92 with 9:32 remaining. Malik Monk got the opportunity to initiate the offense a bit in the fourth and did pretty well with it, lacing a perfect pocket pass to Bismack Biyombo off a pick-and-roll before hitting a push shot from the right block.
A personal 5-0 run from Dwayne Bacon made Charlotte’s lead 114-111 with 1:13 left in the game, but Malik stole the ball and finished a breakaway dunk before Caleb Martin found Jalen McDaniels for a timely 3-pointer on the next trip that stretched the Hornets lead to 119-113. Malik hit McDaniels on a lob pass in the closing seconds to put a nice stamp on the game as the Hornets defeated the Magic 123-115 for their first pre-season win.
Terry scored a team-high 20 points, adding seven rebounds and three steals to his total. Devonte’ and LaMelo each finished with 18 points on four made threes, with Miles adding 17 points on 8-12 from the field. Vučević paced Orlando with a 27-point 12-rebound double-double while former Hornet Dwayne Bacon scored 13 points and five boards on 4-8 shooting.
A few quick thoughts to wrap up; Devonte’ had his best pre-season performance, his shot looked a lot better; LaMelo was 4-8 from beyond the arc; PJ still looks a bit rusty on defense and when attacking the basket; and lastly, the overall improvement from game-to-game for the Hornets has been notable. They played a complete game and were rewarded with a win. One more pre-season tilt on Saturday, and then it’s time to party.