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Charlotte’s third straight strong start turns into a victory as Hornets avoid offensive sloppiness

By Richard Walker

After each of his team’s first two preseason losses, Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego lamented offensive sloppiness that caused too many turnovers to overcome.

No such disappointment existed Thursday night in Orlando as the Hornets had their third straight strong start and they sustained it in a 123-115 victory.

Charlotte (1-2) closes its 2020 preseason schedule by playing the Magic again on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“A lot of good stuff out there,” Borrego said. “Really, all three games we’ve come out with the right mindset and the right urgency.”

Perhaps Guard Terry Rozier put it best about a team that’s determined to force a fast tempo but also wants to value the basketball.

“Playing fast but not being in a hurry has to be the motto,” said Rozier, whose 20 points led five double-figure Hornets’ scorers.

One day after learning top offseason acquisition Gordon Hayward would be out of action with a broken finger, Borrego used Cody Martin to replace Hayward in the starting lineup and the team roared out to its third straight fast start.

But after failing to sustain first-quarter leads of 25-6 and 24-13 in home losses to the Toronto Raptors, Charlotte led throughout Thursday’s game.

The Hornets 32-18 after the first quarter and were up by a game-high 35-18 early in the second quarter.

Orlando twice closed within two points in the third quarter and closed within three points in the fourth quarter.

“I’m really proud of their guys and their approach,” Borrego said.

Charlotte had committed 23 and 25 turnovers, respectively, before making 11 turnovers on Thursday night.

Rookie LaMelo Ball continues to get more and more comfortable in his role as a playmaker off the bench.

“To me, it’s impressive,” Borrego said of Ball’s play through three games. “This guy’s a rookie and he’s making a major impact on these games immediately. He made good decisions. He competed defensively.
“I saw him make step from game two to game three.”

Ball scored 18 points in 26 minutes with two rebounds and five assists. He also converted seven of 17 shots, including four of nine on 3-pointers. Ball had made only three of his first 15 shots and two of nine on 3-pointers.

“I didn’t know much about him when I went to see him in California,” Borrego said of the Hornets’ scouting trip before they made Ball the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. “And he just oozes confidence. He thinks that shot is going in every time he shoots it.”

Charlotte converted 18 of 41 3-pointers overall and continued their high percentage of assists-to-made field goals with 32 assists on 48 conversions Thursday night.