It’s a good thing the games don’t count yet, because the Charlotte Hornets lost to the Boston Celtics 134-93 in their preseason opener.
The Hornets started okay. LaMelo Ball opened the scoring with a pull-up jumper on his first field goal attempt. Terry Rozier hit a couple of tough jumpers of his own. Kelly Oubre earned himself a couple garbage collector buckets and got off to a hot start that eventually made him the team’s leading scorer. James Bouknight was notably the first sub off the bench in the absence of Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin, however he failed to make an impact. Defensively, the Hornets struggled to contain Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who both got into the paint on almost every Celtics possession. Still, after one quarter, the Hornets only trailed by five.
The Celtics 3-point barrage started in earnest in the second quarter. They made 9-of-17 threes in the quarter while the Hornets failed to make any of their six attempts. The Hornets had almost as many turnovers (six) as they had made shots (seven) in the period. The offense didn’t have any rhythm as the Hornets were stuck taking a lot of awkward floaters and tough jumpers, while the Celtics capitalized on the misses to get open looks from three in transition. The Hornets were outscored by 17 points in the quarter and went into the half with a 22 point deficit.
Nick Richards got the start at the five to start the second half. It didn’t make much of a difference. The Celtics offensive onslaught continued en route to another 39 point quarter, but the Hornets at least made enough shots to make the game watchable. Ball got hot with a pair of free throws followed by a pair of deep 3-pointers from the wing, but Jaylen Brown had answers for the Celtics. We got our first looks at Mark Williams and Dennis Smith Jr. in Hornets uniforms in the later parts of the quarter. Smith had a couple of buckets while Williams didn’t register a stat as the bench further dug the Hornets deeper into a deficit. After three, the Hornets trailed by 30.
The foruth quarter was a lot of deep bench players. The Hornets struggled mightily in this stretch of the game. Mark Williams had a dunk off a nice feed from Jalen McDaniels for his only bucket, though he was also active on the offensive glass and had a nice looking turnaround that rattled in and out. LiAngelo Ball badly missed a couple of 3-point attempts, and Dennis Smith Jr. and James Bouknight tried way too hard to get their own offense. In all, it was a complete cluster—the Hornets trailed by as many as 46 points.
If it’s any consolation, the Hornets starters played pretty competitively with the Celtics starters. The reserves got blown out of the water. LaMelo Ball played a decent game aside from the shot not falling. Terry Rozier looked more aggressive on defense than we’ve seen in recent seasons. Kelly Oubre played in control and very effectively. Jalen McDaniels had a very strong, steady game off the bench.
The Hornets will try to do better against the Pacers on Wednesday night.
If it makes anyone feel any better, a fully healthy Suns team lost by double digits to Robert Franks (remember him) and an Adelaide 36ers team that finished 7th out of 10 in the Australian NBL last season.