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Hornets start slow, have late burst in their 2020 preseason finale

By Richard Walker

After three preseason games, Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego felt his team started their preseason finale on Saturday already thinking ahead to Wednesday’s regular season opener.

That is one way to explain as much as a 23-point deficit in a second half that saw wild momentum swings before one-and-done University of North Carolina guard Cole Anthony sparked a late-game comeback that gave the Orlando Magic a 120-117 win over Charlotte.

“It looked like we were ready to get to the regular season in the first half,” Borrego said of his team’s lackluster to his team’s fourth and final preason game.

However, Borrego was pleased with the resiliency his team showed in rallying from behind in the second half that included 26 unanswered points from late in the third quarter until the middle of the fourth quarter.

That surge turned a 94-75 deficit into a 101-94 lead with 7:42 left in the game.

Anthony, a rookie, scored 12 of his 19 points in the final six minutes on Saturday as Orlando retook the lead and held on against Charlotte’s deep reserves in the final three minutes.

Charlotte made 18 3-pointers overall led by the guard tandem of Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier as both finished with their preseason scoring highs. Graham had 25 points and hit eight of 11 3-pointers and Rozier had 24 points and hit five of nine 3-pointers.

“I thought we found our footing in the second quarter,” Borrego said. “Then we found some urgency there in the third quarter.”

P.J. Washington, Cody Zeller and Cody Martin again joined Graham and Rozier in the starting lineup as Gordon Hayward missed his second straight preseason game with a broken bone in his right pinkie finger.

“It’s still day to day,” Borrego said of Hayward’s status after Hayward went through some practice drills Saturday morning. “We’ll see how he responds tomorrow morning. There could be a little soreness. We don’t want any setbacks.”

Hayward finished the preseason averaging 12.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in two starts.

Rozier (17.0 points per game) and Graham (16.0) were the leading scorers for the Hornets in their four preseason games, with Miles Bridges (7.8) the top rebounder.

Rookie LaMelo Ball averaged 8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while converting 11 of 42 field goals (six of 22 on 3-pointers).

“We’ve played four preseason games and have learned a lot,” Borrego said. “We’re excited with what we’re brewing here and we’re ready to play.”