Bridges, Bench Unit Fuel Hornets 1st Road Win
Ever since Head Coach James Borrego took over the team in 2018, the Hornets have steadily gotten better and better at winning on the road.
“I love the mentality of this group. They just bunker in,” said Borrego on Thursday afternoon before the team left for Cleveland. “There’s something about being on the road together. This group just thrives in that environment.”
In order to become a playoff team this year, Charlotte knows it needs to keep improving in this area. So far, so good to start the 2021-22 NBA campaign, as the Hornets knocked off the Cavaliers, 123-112, on Friday night to kick off their first road trip of the season and also start 2-0 for the first time since 2016.
And as for the “bunkering down,” mentality Borrego was referring to, the Hornets did just that in the closing frame, using a 19-2 fourth-quarter-opening tidal wave to completely blow this contest wide open. Charlotte ended up scoring 34 total points off 19 Cleveland turnovers, with 15 off those points coming over the final 12 minutes of play.
“We put on another great run there, similar to the last game [against Indiana],” said Borrego afterwards. “The start of that fourth quarter, the energy, the defense, to get out, run, make plays for each other was just a great way to close out that game. This is a special group. If we can lock in, buy in, this group has a chance to do something pretty special.”
Miles Bridges finished with 30 points and seven rebounds, marking the fourth time in his career he’s crossed the 30-point threshold (all of which have now been on the road). Kelly Oubre Jr. added another 25 points in 27 minutes off the pine to lead a Charlotte reserve unit that outscored its Cavaliers counterpart by a decisive 45-27 margin.
“It was a total team effort,” added Borrego. “We didn’t get off to a great start. Our bench really got us back in this game. Ish Smith, Cody Martin and you have to give Kelly Oubre a lot of credit for just keeping us in that first half until we found our rhythm. You don’t know who is going to step up, but somebody is going to step up. I love our depth. I love our toughness.”
Added Oubre, “I’m water. I try and form to whatever situation that I’m thrown into and then succeed at it. That was the main goal. Continue to be who I am no matter what Coach does with the lineups or anything like that.”
Winning on the road is a challenge for every team in the NBA, regardless of the opponent. But having a multitude of different players like Bridges or Oubre who can go off on any given night can make things a whole lot easier. It’s something the Hornets will certainly hope to keep seeing as the season transpires.
Charlotte will now head to the Barclays Center to face NBA All-Stars Kevin Durant, James Harden and the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday afternoon starting at 4 PM ET.
Melo Ball told us he was something different. He doesn’t consider himself a social media star or NBA Star. He’s a movement, an extension of a royal family whose father predicted the success of his kids and forewarned us about his youngest prodigy, similar to how Richard Williams confidently proclaimed his youngest daughter Serena as the alien of tennis.
The Total Superstar Package
Lonzo Ball set the tone as far as proving the marketability of the Ball brothers. He had the hype and the co-sign from the Lakers and Magic Johnson, but he didn’t have those transcendent skills.
He’s solid, but he’s not Melo, who is an unadulterated superstar. Where Lonzo seemed to lack confidence early in his career, Melo stepped on the court knowing he was one of the best in the business.
Matches his Lamborghini pic.twitter.com/2aWmk6AtTd
— SOLID SNAKE (@Sneakersnake12) October 21, 2021
Sophomore Season Sickness
The reigning NBA Rookie of the Year arrived at Spectrum Center Arena in downtown Charlotte wearing a neon green suit with a neon green trench coat and driving his matching neon green Lamborghini.
Ball showed up suited and booted for the Hornets season opener. When the lights came on, the 2020 NBA Draft No.2 overall selection was unstoppable putting in 31 points (11-23 overall and 7-9 from three) to anchor his nine rebounds and seven assists, two steals in a thrilling 123-122 win over the Pacers.
Last night’s performance was a microcosm of what head coach James Barrego says he’d like to see from his franchise player and lead guard going forward.
Ball was dominant and decisive in everything he did on the floor, and that type of leadership and confidence infused some life into the listless Hornets, which overcame a 16-point halftime deficit (75-59) by outsourcing the Pacers (64-47) in the second half and (33-13) in the big third quarter rally behind a (24-0) run that had fans chanting “MVP” “MVP” as Ball stepped to the free-throw line.
Ball was the catalyst behind it all, as he was either “Dropping Dimes’ ‘ or going “Bombs over Baghdad” from deep.
Ball was asked about that moment:
“Yeah definitely, I heard it.” The city turnt. I love it. We’re gonna keep trying to win.”
MJ’s Prized Disciple
Melo’s enthusiasm to build small-market Charlotte into a winner is music to the front office’s ears. As he continues to soar past his peers, the possibility of him jumping to a larger market will loom over the franchise. For now, Ball’s embraced Charlotte and playing under the guidance of Michael Jordan is something he hopes to do for a long time.
“You’re supposed to just go to a team and just build from there,” Melo told reporters. “I feel that’s how it should be. “Especially when you like a high pick too, most likely going to a team that wasn’t as good, so you try to make them better. I feel like that’s the whole process right there.”
Head coach James Barrego is pleased with his young star’s maturation and had this to say about it:
“Melo has played off of instinct his whole life. “What makes him special is his feel and instinct, which none of us can teach. Now it’s about raising his basketball IQ, where he’s taking information, processing it, and now applying to an NBA game. That’s his next level. The details of winning an NBA game this season will be more valued through his lens.”
Welcome to The Melo Ball Era.
|No. 2 – Charlotte Hornets|
|Born||August 22, 2001
|Listed height||6 ft 7 in (2.01 m)|
|Listed weight||180 lb (82 kg)|
|NBA draft||2020 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall|
|Selected by the Charlotte Hornets|
|2018||Los Angeles Ballers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
LaMelo LaFrance Ball (born August 22, 2001) is an American professional basketball player for the Charlotte Hornets of the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected by the Hornets with the third overall pick of the 2020 NBA draft.
Ball began high school at Chino Hills High School in Chino Hills, California, where he won a state championship and achieved national success as a freshman with his older brothers Lonzo and LiAngelo. Before his junior season, a coaching dispute prompted him to leave Chino Hills and sign with Lithuanian professional team Prienai. In 2018, he played in the Junior Basketball Association (JBA), a league created by his father, before returning to high school as a senior with SPIRE Academy in Geneva, Ohio. A former UCLA commit, he was a five-star recruit but chose to forgo college basketball amid eligibility concerns and play in Australia for the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League (NBL) in 2019, winning NBL Rookie of the Year. He was selected by the Hornets with the third overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft and was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2021.
Ball and his brothers have attracted national attention since playing together in high school. His father, LaVar, also grew into a media personality in 2017. Ball has a signature shoe by his father’s company, Big Baller Brand, and a role on his family’s Facebook Watch reality show Ball in the Family.