Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Sports Gaming Monitor

NBA Preview: Charlotte Hornets at Cleveland Cavaliers

One game into the season and the Charlotte Hornets already have racked up numerous accomplishments.

Now they’re imagining what they might do if those came with a full well-rounded performance.

They’ll try to move in that direction when they take on the Cavaliers Friday night in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers will be looking for good vibes after a rough opener, yet one that was sprinkled with encouraging elements as well.

Both teams played Wednesday, with the Hornets rallying from a big hole to win. The Cavaliers also had a comeback, but that wasn’t enough in their first game.

“It’s a long journey,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “We learned a lot about ourselves. We’ll take a step forward.”

The Hornets overcame a 23-point deficit to win 123-122 in their opener against the visiting Indiana Pacers. The rally included a 24-0 stretch in the second half.

Cleveland tumbled 132-121, trimming a 16-point deficit to one point before it was undone by a late-game surge from Memphis.

“An opportunity for us to learn and to improve for Friday,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “We’ve got to continue to work together. That’s going to take time. That takes experience, but I think we’ve got the right pieces in place.”

Jarrett Allen had 25 points for the Cavaliers. More impressive, he’ll go into the second game of the season with an 11-for-11 shooting line from the field.

Allen said the Cavaliers have shown versatility with their lineup combinations.

“We can defend almost every single position with a big lineup,” Allen said. “There is just a lot of versatility on both ends of the court.”

They might need that against the Hornets, who showed a multifaceted offense.

Hornets guard LaMelo Ball had 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in a stellar outing for the second-year player. He became the youngest player in NBA history with at least 30 points, five rebounds and five assists in a season opener.

“We’re together for the first time (with) this group,” Borrego said. “We’re going to have adversity.”

But they also know they can bounce back within a game.

“This group proved to itself (that) we’re not going to give in until that last second ticks off,” Borrego said. “We have to build off of this. The goal is to take this, learn from it, be better from it.”

The Hornets also received key contributions from Gordon Hayward, something they came to expect last season prior to a season-ending injury. He had 27 points and five rebounds.

“Hopefully, it’s only upward from here,” Borrego said. “When you haven’t played in six months, that’s a difficult challenge. He was like the Gordon we saw six months ago before the injury.”

The Cavaliers figure they have a variety of scoring options.

“My first instinct is to try to find guys in transition,” said Cleveland guard Darius Garland, who had 12 assists and connected on three fourth-quarter 3-pointers. “With our tempo, we open up a lot of shots for a lot of people.”

On Friday night, Ball will have company in the impressive youth category. Evan Mobley, a 20-year-old first-round rookie for the Cavaliers, posted 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists in his NBA debut.

“He came out ready to compete,” Garland said of Mobley, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.

Mobley played a team-high 38 minutes, something that Bickerstaff said was earned.

The meeting with the Cavaliers will be the first of a back-to-back home set for the Cavaliers, who will welcome the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

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