Sometimes NBA exhibitions are more about agendas than competition.
Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford used Thursday’s matchup with the Miami Heat as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Miami coach Erik Spolestra treated it more like a tryout for the Heat’s Development League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
That made for an uneven, not particularly entertaining, 96-88 victory for the Hornets at the Spectrum Center. The Hornets (3-3 preseason) led by as many as 20 points in the first half, only to let the Heat lead by one late in the third quarter. Miami (4-3) got back into the game by making 11 of its first 27 3-pointers.
The Hornets went almost entirely with their intended core rotation when the regular season opens Oct. 26 against the Bucks in Milwaukee. The Heat sat out Goran Dragic, the usual starter at point guard, and small forward Justise Winslow. Starters Hassan Whiteside and Dion Waiters never reached 20 minutes in playing time. Whiteside likely played Thursday only because he grew up in nearby Gastonia.
Three who mattered
Frank Kaminsky: He’s certainly not Marvin Williams yet, but all the ways Kaminsky can score were on display.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist: He had his most active game since back from two shoulder surgeries, finishing with a double-double in points (10) and rebounds (14).
Rodney McGruder: He came off Miami’s bench to score 18 points and hit four 3-pointers.
▪ The favorites for the last two spots on the Hornets’ 15-man roster appear to be Aaron Harrison and Treveon Graham. Harrison made the Hornets last season as an undrafted rookie.
▪ Graham is a small forward who played in the Development League last season. Coach Steve Clifford said during the summer he wanted another small forward whose strengths were defensive. Graham fits that description.
▪ Perry Ellis, Rasheed Sulaimon and Mike Tobey could all end up playing for the Hornets’ new Development League franchise, the Greensboro Swarm.
▪ An nba.com survey of general managers named the Hornets’ Stephen Silas as second-best assistant in the league.
▪ Surprised more season-ticket holders didn’t show up for this one. The other home exhibition was head-to-head with Carolina Panthers on “Monday Night Football.”
▪ The Hornets will have their seventh and final exhibition Friday on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Clifford doesn’t plan to play his starters heavy minutes in that game.
▪ The Hornets cut guard Andrew Andrews on Wednesday. According to Clifford, Andrews had an opportunity to play in Europe that meant he wouldn’t have ended up in Greensboro.
▪ As expected, Williams (broken finger), Cody Zeller (knee bruise) and Brian Roberts (hamstring) missed this exhibiton and will also sit Friday. Kaminsky started at power forward in Williams’ spot.
C+ OFFENSE: The Hornets had a blistering 33-point first quarter, only to tail off dramatically the rest of the game.
B DEFENSE: Some good play in the lane, but they gave up too many open looks to Miami outside the 3-point arc.
B COACHING: Clifford still searching for how to squeeze more points out of this group offensively.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell