Defense struggles in Charlotte Hornets preseason loss to Miami Heat

Mitchell Northam

CHARLOTTE -- There were bobbled balls, there were missed opportunities and there were all of the other things that come with any early preseason game for the Charlotte Hornets. But against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night in a half-empty Spectrum Center, the defense struggled mightily, especially when it came to defending the three-point line.

After pulling ahead by 33 points in the third quarter, the visiting Heat coasted to a 108-94 win in front of an announced crowd of 8,522 fans.

To make the scenario a bit worse for the Hornets, Miami's best players weren't the ones exposing the defense. Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow and Kelly Olynyk stayed in South Beach to nurse various injuries. Leading the way was Dion Waiters, Duncan Robinson and Davon Reed, who each connected on four shots from behind the arc.

“I think (the Heat) hit a lot of three’s," Hornets' coach James Borrego said. "You know, the ones that concern me are the ones – the easy stuff at the rim, the miscommunications, the lack of communications in transition, an easy lay-up or a wide open three. They shot the ball very well from three tonight… They got hot, they got moving.”

Indeed. Miami started the game shooting 7-of-13 from three-point range, but finished with a 40.5 percent clip on 15-of-37 attempts after the Hornets defense woke up a bit. Waiters led all scorers in the game, scoring 19 points in 16 minutes.

Miami also scored 25 points off of Hornets' turnovers and notched 52 points on 26-of-41 shots in the paint.

"Our defense is a work in progress. We’re much more aggressive this year, which is going to open up some three’s on the backside. We have to live with some of those," Borrego said. "What I can’t live with is the easy stuff – a breakdown in our defense, a breakdown in communication, a wide-open three, not rotating, wide open lay-ups, not being there on the weak side. Those are the ones that we have to clean up."

It wasn't all bad for Charlotte though. Once again, rookies P.J. Washington and Caleb Martin impressed, each putting up double-digit scoring totals.

After not taking a shot for his first eight minutes of play, Washington found his groove in the second half, finishing with 13 points on eight shots, while also collecting two rebounds. He swished a three-pointer from the left wing in the fourth quarter off a feed from undrafted rookie Josh Perkins, who led the team in assists with four dimes in 13 minutes.

Washington entered the game as a center, but also spent some time playing power forward.

“I think P.J. followed up with another impressive performance," Borrego said. "That group out there at the end came out with great energy, player with purpose. P.J. looks more and more comfortable. The more he’s out there, the better he looks.”

Martin tallied 14 points, two steals, two assists and three rebounds in 18 minutes of play. He led the team in free throw attempts with six trips to the charity stripe.

Second-year guard Devonte' Graham also had a solid showing, getting 14 points and two assists off the bench. He also tied for the team-lead in rebounds with six.

Highlights

Notes

  • Nic Batum did not return to the floor for the second half of the game due to a right achilles injury. Borrego did not know how severe the injury was during his postgame conference, saying he needed to check with the team's medical staff. Batum played 13 minutes but did not score, misfiring on two three-pointers.
  • Miles Bridges led the Hornets in minutes played with 26, but finished with just two points on six shot attempts. He also contributed three blocks, six boards and two assists.
  • Terry Rozier led the Hornets in scoring with 18 points 22 minutes.
  • Malik Monk made his preseason debut after missing the Celtics game with a sore toe. The Kentucky product finished with 10 points, two rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes.
  • Bismack Biyombo, Robert Franks, Ahmed Hill and Kobi Simmons did not play.
  • Cody Martin was held out of the game due to a right ankle sprain.
  • While the Hornets had 29 assists in their preseason opener at Boston, they tallied just 19 on Wednesday.
  • The Hornets nearly matched Miami's attempts from outside, taking 36 three-pointers, but made only eight of them for a 22.2 percent mark.
  • The first players off the bench were Devonte' Graham, Willy Hernangomez and Marvin Williams.
  • Kemba Walker's old locker has been taken over by Cody Martin.

Next up: The Hornets have a home-away-from-home game Friday, as they'll host the Philadelphia 76ers for a 7:30 p.m. tip-off at L.J. Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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