Terry Rozier scored a career high 42 points on a career high ten made 3-pointers while Gordon Hayward scored 28 points and dished out six assists in his Charlotte Hornets debut, but they couldn’t overcome poor play for the rest of the team as they dropped their season opener to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 121-114.
Gordon Hayward opened the Hornets scoring for the season with a nice drive and finish through contact. That bucket was an oasis in what was otherwise a very dry first few minutes for the Hornets. They started the game 2/12 (the other make being a Cody Zeller layup while being fouled) and fell behind 11-4. LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges were the first subs off the bench for the Hornets, and they’re entry into the game coincided with the Hornets starting to find some offensive flow. Bridges had a nice drive reminiscent of what he did in the preseason and then was the recipient of two terrific lobs from Devonte’ Graham for dunks.
After one quarter, the Hornets trailed by one point.
The Hornets were a little disorganized on the defensive end to start the second quarter, letting the Cavs get some easy looks both at the rim and from deep. It prompted a James Borrego timeout, which didn’t stop from Collin Sexton from lighting it up. He scored several baskets in a row, and then JaVale McGee made a couple...interesting...buckets. It was part of a 13-0 run during which most of the Hornets shot attempts were heavily contested and most of the Cavs shot attempts were not. It resulted in a 21 point halftime deficit for the Hornets which, according to At the Hive’s mentions on Twitter, meant the season was over and the entire team and front office needed to be purged.
But for some reason, the league let the players come out and play a third quarter. The Hornets fared much better. Terry Rozier hit three 3-pointers and scored 12 points as part of a 17-4 Hornets run that cut the deficit from 21 down to 8. The run ran out of gas after a Cavs timeout, but the Hornets kept themselves within striking distance. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Hornets trailed by 13. To that point, Hayward had 22 points and Rozier had 21.
The Hornets gave up some inside buckets to Andre Drummond early in the fourth quarter, the last of which was a cherrypicked dunk, to fall behind by 17 points. Despite some more nice scoring from Rozier, the margin hovered around that mark for much of the rest of the game as the Hornets struggled to contain the Cavaliers young guards, but the Hornets didn’t quit. Unreal scoring from Terry Rozier helped claw the Hornets back within single digits and even as close as five points in the game’s waning seconds. They were unable to secure the desperation steals required to complete the comeback, but they fought hard and made a game of it.
Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward were incredible. They combined for 70 points on 26-of-41 shooting while going 14-of-24 from deep. The rest of the Hornets...not so much. Devonte’ Graham ended up with a double double after hitting a few jumpers down the stretch, finishing with an inefficient 10 points and 10 assists.
All told, Hornets not named Rozier or Hayward combined to shoot 19-of-49 (38.8%) from the field and 2-of-20 (10%) from deep. That’s not good enough. On top of that, the Hornets lacked defensive intensity in the first half and missed quite a few rotations in the second half. The second half play was something to build off, but it still was too sloppy.
Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball failed to score in his debut and looked undisciplined defensively. He gave up a couple open 3-pointers while chasing steals. He made some nice passes, but he did have a couple of bad turnovers.
To add injury to insult, Cody Zeller broke his hand in the second half. No word on how long he’ll be out.
The Hornets will try to bounce back on Saturday at home against the Thunder.