When Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego evaluated the statistics from last season, he had two strong reactions: This team must raise its 3-pointers and assists.
All evidence so far suggests that message was thoroughly received.
Entering Monday night’s game in Toronto, the Hornets have set an NBA record for 3s in the first three games of a season. They have made 49 (making 42 percent of their attempts so far), breaking the record 46 by the Golden State Warriors last season.
As far as assists, they are averaging 25.3 per game, 10th-best in the NBA. Last season, they were 24th among 30 teams, averaging 21.6.
Five other thoughts on what we’ve seen and what’s next:
▪ Rookie Miles Bridges didn’t play in Miami. I didn’t make much of that because of the pressure the Heat put on the Hornets in the second half eliminated any margin for error. Developing Bridges is important, but both Borrego and general manager Mitch Kupchak have said repeatedly they are focused first on winning games this season.
▪ Sure, it would have been fun for the Hornet to blow out the Heat in Miami, but there is a benefit in eking that one out in the final second for a team that has been haunted by close losses the past two seasons
“The way this game went -- up 25, we’re good, and then they make a huge run -- we used to lose those games the last two years. That was a guaranteed loss,” Nic Batum told me. “The way that game ended showed we’ve grown..”
▪ It is so important that the Hornets develop alternative reliable scorers, to take some night-after-night off Kemba Walker. That’s why it was significant that Monk told Walker “I got you, Bro,” in that fourth quarter and made good on that with two huge jump shots.
“We’ve got to give Kemba a break,” Batum said. “It’s going to be my job (to oversee distribution). I told Malik I’m going to give him the ball because he doesn’t care -- in a good way.”
▪ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a career-high seven shots blocked in Miami, three more than his previous high. MKG has so adapted to what Borrego has asked of him, shifting from a starter at small forward to a backup at power forward.
▪ This is nuanced, but noteworthy: On that game-winning last possession in Miami, Borrego chose not to send a picker to Walker, trusting him to create without aid of a pick to keep the Heat from sending a second defender. That’s an interesting little wrinkle.