Charlotte Hornets

Shaky defense sinks Charlotte Hornets in opener at Detroit

Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) passes the ball while defended by Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard (12) and forward Marvin Williams during the first half of Wednesday’s NBA game in Detroit.
Detroit Pistons guard Reggie Jackson (1) passes the ball while defended by Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard (12) and forward Marvin Williams during the first half of Wednesday’s NBA game in Detroit. AP

DETROIT Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford delayed naming a fifth starter in Wednesday’s season opener against the Detroit Pistons, primarily out of concern for how to match up with forward Tobias Harris.

Clifford settled on rookie Dwayne Bacon as a starter, but the Hornets never did figure out how to contain Harris. He scored 17 of the Pistons’ 29 first-quarter points in a 102-90 Hornets loss at the newly-opened Little Caesars Arena.

Clifford was scrambling to manage a shorthanded roster. He was without two starters -- shooting guard Nic Batum (elbow injury) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (excused personal absence). Several other Hornets missed stretches late in the preseason, which impeded organization.

The Hornets were gruesome defensively in the first quarter, allowing the Pistons to shoot 52 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. The Hornets trailed by only two at the end of the first quarter, but the pattern was set. Charlotte trailed by 11 at halftime and never looked prepared to overcome the deficit.

Hornets point guard Kemba Walker finished with 24 points. Harris totaled 27 points and 10 rebounds.

Three who mattered

Harris: He made eight of his first 10 shots - too big for small forwards to guard and too much shooting range for Hornets power forwards.

Dwight Howard: He had a double-double in points and rebounds by the end of the third quarter. He finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots.

Jeremy Lamb: An opening-night starter for the Hornets, he made four of his first seven shots.

Observations

▪  Bacon became just the sixth rookie chosen in the second round to start a season opener since 2009 in the NBA. Clifford has been impressed with how quickly Bacon has picked up the system. What Clifford likes best is Bacon’s size (6-foot-7 and 221 pounds) and physicality.

▪  It’s unclear how much longer Kidd-Gilchrist will be away from the team. Clifford said who starts in the near future will be a game-to-game decision based on matchups.

▪  With this being the first regular-season NBA game at Little Caesars Arena, Commissioner Adam Silver was in attendance. The Pistons played for decades at the Palace of Auburn Hills, in the northern suburbs.

▪  Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in his prime with the Orlando Magic, said pre-game Howard has already done more than enough to be in the Hall of Fame. Van Gundy called Howard, in his 14th NBA season, the best center of his generation.

▪  Clifford went entirely with reserves to end the first quarter. Last season, he would have kept Batum in the game as an organizer.

Worth mentioning

▪  Former Duke star Grant Hill was at the game, as the Pistons celebrated many of their all-time players.

▪  Howard and Pistons backup center Eric Moreland got into each other’s faces in the second quarter, resulting in double technicals.

▪  Johnny O’Bryant, the Hornets’ fifth big man, was the only available Charlotte player not to play in the first half.

Report card

C- OFFENSE: Frank Kaminsky and rookie Malik Monk shot a combined 2-of-18 from the field.

D- DEFENSE: Clifford’s goal is a top-5 defense. For much of Wednesday the Hornets looked bottom 5.

C- COACHING: It’s been a trying preseason for a variety of reasons, but even when the game was close, it didn’t look like the Hornets had a chance.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

PISTONS 102, HORNETS 90

Charlotte

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Bacon

20:27

3-6

0-0

2

2

1

8

Williams

26:40

2-5

1-2

2

0

2

7

Howard

31:27

5-9

0-2

15

1

2

10

Lamb

28:21

4-10

7-8

4

2

2

15

Walker

35:26

6-13

11-13

6

4

1

24

Zeller

23:24

3-5

2-2

9

0

2

8

Kaminsky

23:11

1-9

2-2

4

2

0

4

Monk

21:28

1-9

0-0

0

1

1

3

Graham

17:02

2-4

0-0

2

3

1

5

Stone

12:34

2-3

0-0

3

1

3

6

Totals

240:00

29-73

23-29

47

16

15

90

Percentages: FG .397, FT .793. 3-Point Goals: 9-30, .300 (Stone 2-3, Bacon 2-4, Williams 2-4, Graham 1-2, Walker 1-3, Monk 1-6, Lamb 0-3, Kaminsky 0-5). Team Rebounds: 9. Team Turnovers: 17 (25 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Howard 2, Zeller). Turnovers: 17 (Walker 4, Howard 3, Monk 3, Bacon 2, Lamb 2, Zeller 2, Stone). Steals: 4 (Stone 2, Howard, Lamb). Technical Fouls: Howard, 4:32 second.

Detroit

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

A

F

Pt

Harris

34:03

11-18

1-1

10

3

3

27

Johnson

40:20

0-13

2-2

4

1

1

2

Drummond

22:21

3-9

2-2

13

4

3

8

Bradley

23:19

7-10

1-1

2

1

4

15

Jackson

27:10

5-10

3-3

5

8

2

13

Galloway

24:41

6-11

1-1

4

0

0

16

Smith

20:50

2-9

0-0

1

6

4

4

Leuer

19:21

2-6

0-1

3

0

0

4

Ellenson

16:13

5-10

1-1

4

1

2

13

Moreland

11:42

0-0

0-0

1

0

2

0

Totals

240:00

41-96

11-12

47

24

21

102

Percentages: FG .427, FT .917. 3-Point Goals: 9-26, .346 (Harris 4-7, Galloway 3-6, Ellenson 2-4, Jackson 0-1, Leuer 0-1, Smith 0-1, Johnson 0-6). Team Rebounds: 3. Team Turnovers: 8 (6 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Drummond 2, Leuer). Turnovers: 8 (Smith 3, Bradley 2, Galloway, Harris, Leuer). Steals: 14 (Johnson 4, Galloway 3, Moreland 3, Drummond, Ellenson, Jackson, Smith). Technical Fouls: Moreland, 4:32 second.

Charlotte

27

18

25

20

90

Detroit

29

27

26

20

102

Att.—20,491 (21,000). T—2:03.

Officials—Matt Boland, Marc Davis, JB DeRosa

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