Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Saturday night’s home game vs. Toronto Raptors
By Richard Walker
Notes and observations from Saturday’s 114-104 Hornets’ home win over the Toronto Raptors that improved Charlotte to 19-18 overall:
… A COVID-restricted sellout crowd of 2,861 got to see all sorts of history as Charlotte fed off the energy of their second home game this season with fans. The Hornets led from start-to-finish for the first time this season, scored a season-high 44 points in the first quarter and set a franchise record for first half 3-pointers (15). Charlotte limited fans to 500 health care workers on Thursday before allowing season ticketholders the opportunity to come to Saturday’s game. “It was amazing,” LaMelo Ball said. “Every game with fans is way more fun.” Added Devonte’ Graham: “It felt great. It felt like the arena was packed. It gave us a boost of energy from the start.”
… Ball led the way with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists as Charlotte led by as many as 27 points before Toronto closed the game on a 20-3 surge to make the final score look more respectable. Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham added 17 points each and Malik Monk had 16.
… Graham hit five on nine 3-pointers and seems to be warming to his role as a sharpshooter off the bench. “I have no worries that ‘Te can’t handle this role,” Hornets coach James Borrego said.
… With a 19-18 record, Charlotte is above .500 following 37 games for the first time since the Hornets were 20-17 through 37 games in the 2016-17 season.
… Charlotte came out firing 3-pointers. The Hornets hit 11 of 16 in the first quarter, five of 14 in the second quarter, four of 11 in the third quarter and one of eight in the fourth quarter. Borrego thought defense is what fueled that offensive surge. “I thought our defense was fantastic from the start of the game,” Borrego said. “That starting group had a great effort and focus on the defensive end.”
… Ball continued making the highlight reel plays that make him the odds-on favorite to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Borrego says he doesn’t expect many of the plays in the way Ball executes them. “He makes a number of these plays – it’s the spin, pass, behind the back, the corner 3 spin, he can spin in the lane, at the rim….,” Borrego said. “He’s just a unique player. I just love his maturity and his growth. We had 30 assists tonight. The ball was moving. And it started with Melo coming out the gate.”
… Toronto was without five players due to health and safety protocols, including starters Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby.
What’s next: Charlotte hosts the Sacramento Kings on Monday at 7 p.m.
After Monday’s home game, the Hornets begin a five-game, eight-day Western road trip that starts at Denver on Wednesday and continues on Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers, next Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, March 22 at San Antonio and March 24 at Houston.