The Charlotte Hornets opened the 2017-2018 NBA season in Detroit with a 102-90 loss.
The Hornets had their backs against the wall before tip. They were without two starters in Nicholas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and back up point guard Michael Carter-Williams also missed the game due to injury. That meant more minutes for rookies Malik Monk and Dwayne Bacon. Bacon got his first career start at small forward. Journeyman point guard Julyan Stone would take over back up point guard duty. Head coach Steve Clifford decided to go with a starting line up of Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Bacon, Marvin Williams and Dwight Howard.
Results were mixed as you might have expected. Lineups that have never played together were thrown into the fire. Youth and inexperience showed. Charlotte had 17 turnovers tonight after leading the league in fewest turnovers per game at 10.7 last season. Besides turnovers, defense was a significant issue. Detroit was living in the paint all night and outscoring them 44-30. They also excelled in transition, finishing with 12 easy fast break points compared to none for Charlotte.
The offense wasn't much better for Charlotte. They shot 39 percent from the field, 30 percent from three and only 79 percent from the free throw line. The misses at the line were killer, but at least they got to the line, attempted 29 free throws compared to just 12 from Detroit.
Poor ball movement stuck out as well. Charlotte finished with just 16 assists to Detroit's 24. Too often the Hornets relied on Dwight going one on one in the post, or Kemba making something out of nothing. Walker often had to bail Charlotte out. He finished with 24 points on 6-13 shooting from the field and did a great job getting to the line, going 11-13.
Only two others Hornets were in double figures. Howard finished with 10 points and Jeremy Lamb, filling in for Batum, had a nice game with 15 points. It was good to see Lamb being aggressive, he attempted 10 shots and got to the line eight times.
I also have to give some credit to Treveon Graham. The second-year player had a good game, playing 17 minutes and finishing with five points, three rebounds, and two assists. More impressively, Graham led the Hornets with a plus/minus of +8. Clifford should look to get him some more minutes going forward.
Charlotte needed more of that. In particular, Charlotte needed Monk and Frank Kaminsky to provide scoring. They were unable to do that, combining for 2-18 from the field.
Granted, it’s tough to ask a lot from a rookie in his first NBA game. Monk not only struggled from the field but also had three turnovers and finished with a -8 plus/minus for the game. Bacon shot a little better-going 3-6 from the field, but he had two turnovers and finished with a -15. He got punished a bit defensively.
Most of Detroit's offense came from Tobias Harris; a long time Hornets killer. Harris finished the game with 27 points on 11-18 shooting from the field. Time after time Harris took advantage of Bacon or Marvin Williams.
It was a team effort though for the Pistons. Langston Galloway chipped in 16 points, Avery Bradley had 15, Reggie Jackson and Henry Ellenson had 13 a piece. Signs that there were holes in the Hornets defense everywhere.
A tough loss no doubt, but the Hornets must rebound quickly. Charlotte has its home opener on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks. These are the types of wins Charlotte must get to survive the Batum injury.