Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego spoke Tuesday about his team having “appropriate fear” of the Dallas Mavericks, after a 51-point blowout of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Seems the Mavs had the Hornets’ full attention: They outscored Dallas 30-12 in the third quarter to surprisingly dominate the Mavs 118-99 on the road Wednesday. Charlotte led by as many as 31 points.
The Hornets are now 2-2, after beating the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday at Spectrum Center. The Hornets got great games off the bench from forward Miles Bridges (20 points and 16 rebounds) and rookie point guard LaMelo Ball (22 points, nine rebounds and five assists).
Ball had his best sustained play in this first half with 15 points, six rebounds and four assists, playing 16 of a possible 24 minutes.
Ball definitely looked more under control, with just one turnover and two fouls. He used his 6-foot-7 size well, and that’s important for the future: The Hornets were small at almost all positions last season, by NBA standards. Ball makes them longer, which will also help a team that was so shaky rebounding, both last season and the start of this one.
Ball making three of his four 3-point attempts is a big bonus, in that teams are going to play off him on the perimeter to focus on his drives and passing.
The Hornets clearly are deeper this season, not just for the additions of Ball and free agent Gordon Hayward, but for the ongoing improvement of Cody and Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels. The reserves scored 42 of a possible 68 first-half points in building an 11-point halftime lead.
Beyond what Ball did, sixth-man Bridges scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 12 first-half minutes.
Borrego continued with a 10-man rotation. The only starter who played well in the first half was P.J. Washington with nine points, two rebounds and three assists.
Hayward carried the Hornets in Sunday’s upset of the Brooklyn Nets, particularly in the fourth quarter. On Wednesday, he greatly struggled in the first half, making 1-of-11 shots from the field and 0-of-5 from 3-point range.
Sharing Luka responsibility
Borrego said pre-game that Terry Rozier and Hayward would each take turns guarding Luka Doncic, the Mavericks’ Most Valuable Player candidate, and Cody Martin and Bridges might also defend Doncic off the bench.
Doncic had some impact in the first half with eight points and five assists, but he also committed three fouls, which limited his playing time to 15 minutes. By the end of the third quarter, Doncic had 12 points and was being constantly attacked by whichever Hornet he guarded.
A blowout was particularly to the Hornets’ benefit, considering how hectic their schedule is about to be: This was the first of three games in four nights and 10 in 16. Borrego said Tuesday it will be impractical to practice much in that span, as the off days will be needed to get the rotation players some rest.
On Friday, the Hornets are at home against the Memphis Grizzlies, who will be without star point guard Ja Morant, who sprained an ankle in Monday’s victory over the Brooklyn Nets.
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