Three things we learned about the Charlotte Hornets in season-opening win vs. Pacers

·5 min read

Miles Bridges bounced the ball with a little extra thrust, likely a combination of exhilaration, euphoria, exhaustion and anxiousness.

A furious comeback attempt had been threatened by Indiana, the same team the Charlotte Hornets lost to in the NBA’s play-in tournament back in May. The Pacers had one final gasp, giving it to the guy who’s terrorized the Hornets down low for years.

The Hornets had trouble containing Indiana’s interior players all game, and the Pacers tossed it into Domantas Sabonis in the paint with less than four seconds remaining, allowing him to operate. Sabonis went into one of his spinning moves and tossed it up at the rim seemingly in slow motion, only to watch it bounce harmlessly off the side of the rim and drop into Bridges’ hands and seal a wild 123-122 victory at Spectrum Center on Wednesday night.

From down 23 points in the third, to up 10 in the fourth before trailing by one with 4.6 seconds remaining, the Hornets put the crowd of 15,521 through a roller coaster in their season opener.

“It’s a good way to start,” coach James Borrego said. “Obviously, we didn’t want to get off to the hole we were in. But I think this group proved to themselves tonight that we have the fight, the resiliency and the perseverance to never give in. And that was one of our mantras last year — we’re not giving in. We are not going to give in until that last second ticks off. And I think tonight was a good example of that.”

Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges, center, begins the celebration as forward Gordon Hayward, right, joins in following the teamÕs victory over the Indiana Pacers 123-122 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.
Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges, center, begins the celebration as forward Gordon Hayward, right, joins in following the teamÕs victory over the Indiana Pacers 123-122 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC on Wednesday, October 20, 2021.

Here are three things we learned from the Hornets’ victory:


Perhaps he was inspired by the two special visitors he had in town, seated courtside on the end of the floor directly across from the Hornets’ bench. Whatever the catalyst was, the Hornets should think about bottling it up and popping the top open frequently.

With his father, LaVar, making his first appearance in Charlotte watching alongside wife Tina, Ball single-handedly kept the Hornets within striking distance during their first-half struggles. He cracked the 30-point plateau for the third time in his career, posting 31 to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. The most impressive thing, besides the impressive attire he sported in his postgame interview session — a bright yellow trenchcoat.

He tied a career-high with seven made 3-pointers, proving his well-chronicled stroke is reliable, and engineered their comeback that fueled a crowd-pleasing 24-0 run.

“We started playing for one another,” Ball said, “instead of how the game started (when) we were going down, getting one shot. But when that happened I feel like we really locked in.”


Fixing their problems on the interior was one of the areas the Hornets tried to address in the offseason. It was an issue all throughout last season, only to be magnified during their play-in tournament loss to Indiana.

Sabonis torched them for 14 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists that night during their play-in tournament loss in May, and he was unconscious from the opening tip, poking holes at their defense in the paint. Sabonis posted 22 points and seven boards through the first quarter-plus and established the Pacers’ game down low early, recording all but two of their initial 12 points in the paint.

He finished with 33 points and 15 rebounds, helping Indiana grab a 51-46 edge on the glass.

“Obviously, we’ve got to be better on the interior,” Borrego said. “There’s no question about that. We can’t afford to start games like this without presence in the paint. I thought we were just following them around the whole first half. They were dictating the physicality. I thought we turned it up there in the third quarter and it turned the game because of our physicality in the paint, on the ball as well.”


The Hornets’ Terry Rozier was downgraded from probable to questionable leading into the game, and it was still unclear about an hour before tipoff if he would be available.

After warming up on the court, testing out his sprained left ankle with a few jumpers and some lateral movement, Rozier chatted with coach James Borrego for a minute or so before the decision was made. Rozier sat out, replaced in the starting lineup by Kelly Oubre.

The Hornets figured it would be best not to push it with Rozier. He’s too valuable to their success.

“Yeah it’s a long season,” Borrego said. “It’s 82 games. It’s a marathon. We are not going to win a championship overnight and one night doesn’t define our season. Tonight is not about that. It’s about the long haul. We are going to be cautious with him if he’s ready to go and I trust him. Obviously, he’s one of those battlers, warriors that wants to be out here every night. And it’s killing him not being 100%. But we’ve got to be smart with him and he’s got to be honest in his evaluation. … It’s a long season and he understands that.”

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