It was an encouraging and notable NBA debut for Charlotte Hornets first-round draft pick Brandon Miller, whose opening-night foundation has the club curious about what more he can do.
They’ll find out to some degree with Friday night’s game against the visiting Detroit Pistons.
Miller, a 20-year-old forward out of Alabama, overcame some first-half foul trouble to rack up 13 points off the bench in a 116-110 victory against the visiting Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night.
“He is not like most guys his age,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “If you watch him, he’s got great self-confidence and that’s the way he is in practice every day.”
The Pistons opened the season with a 103-102 road loss to the Miami Heat despite Cade Cunningham’s 30 points. Detroit rallied from a 19-point deficit in the fourth quarter but was held scoreless for the final 1:43.
There were uplifting parts of that outing for the Pistons despite the setback.
“The guys believe in what we’re doing,” first-year Detroit coach Monty Williams said, appreciating the team’s response in Game 1 of the season. “To a man, everybody was, ‘Get your heads up. We’re going to be really good.'”
Miller’s debut included three 3-point baskets. His final triple put the Hornets ahead for good.
“That was as big of a shot as there was in the game,” Clifford said.
Miller drained two 3-point shots in the fourth quarter.
“I think the crowd loved it,” he said. “Enjoy the moment with my teammates.”
All five Charlotte starters scored in double figures in the opener. The Hornets shot 50 percent from the field, despite going just 11-for-37 on 3-pointers.
Hornets guard LaMelo Ball, who had an injury-filled 2022-23, kept alive his franchise-record streak of games with at least one 3-point basket at 52. Yet he logged 31 minutes — one more than Clifford said would be his limit at the start of the season as the team attempts to ease him into stressful situations and not overly test his durability right away.
The Hornets were without Bryce McGowens in the opener because of an ankle sprain, though he could be close to making it back on the court.
For the Pistons, Williams will look for better ball security. There was an ebb and flow in that regard in Miami, with turnover problems in the first half and then no turnovers in the third quarter.
“Our guys stopped worrying about things we couldn’t control,” Williams said.
Williams said it’s clear that the Pistons can build on how they played defense in the second half of the opener.
Cunningham’s 30-point output was encouraging for more reasons than the point total. He’s bound to be even more productive as his conditioning improves.
“I see him coming around,” Williams said. “I see confidence in his legs. He’s starting to figure out the system a bit. He has got an all-around game.”
The teams split four games last season. Charlotte’s losses came during eight- and seven-game losing streaks.