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Celtics deal Hornets first loss. Three things we learned from Charlotte vs. Boston

The Charlotte Observer logo The Charlotte Observer 10/26/2021 Roderick Boone, The Charlotte Observer
In this photo from April 28, Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. © Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America/TNS In this photo from April 28, Boston Celtics Head Coach Brad Stevens directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

During their red-hot franchise-record start, the Charlotte Hornets’ depth has been challenged.

An ankle injury kept leading scorer Terry Rozier out for three games, including Monday night’s tilt with Boston. PJ Washington was sidelined, too, unable to go due to knee right knee discomfort sustained a night earlier in Brooklyn. Juggling the absences is something coach James Borrego has been forced to navigate and the Hornets have found ways to overcome it with the interchangeable pieces.

Unable to win Monday’s game in regulation when Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball couldn’t get together on an inbound pass with 11.3 seconds remaining in regulation, they succumbed to the Celtics 140-129 in overtime at Spectrum Center to halt their three-game winning streak.

Here are three things we learned in the Hornets’ first loss of the season:

BOMBS AWAY

Three fingers.

That’s what kept getting put up seemingly all night by the Hornets. They drained a season-high 19 3-pointers, led by their starting backcourt tandem of LaMelo Ball and Kelly Oubre. The duo combined to connect on 12 of 22 beyond the arc, slightly cooling off after nailing 9 of 12 together.

Ball tied his career high with seven 3-pointers, firing from mostly straightaway. Oubre canned half his 10 attempts, assisting in opening up the floor.

Overall, the Hornets totaled 10 makes beyond the arc in the first quarter alone.

CODY MARTIN, UNSUNG HERO

Cody Martin remains one of the first people summoned off the bench by Borrego through the first four games. He’s carved out a nice role for himself already, establishing himself as a key member of the rotation.

Martin’s name has been uttered following nearly every game because of the intangibles he brings to the table. His defensive awareness is about as good as anyone on the team, and that was on display against James Harden in Brooklyn when he drew charging fouls on consecutive drives to the bucket.

Most of the things Martin does aren’t easily detectable and can go unnoticed. But his teammates and coaches are fully aware of the influence he’s having.

“It shows up in film, it’s clear as day,” Borrego said. “Every time you watch his film, if you were to grade somebody on a scale every single possession, he grades out well on every possession. He’s in the right spot at the right time, making keys plays – defensively, offensively. Cutting at the right time. Making a big steal. His defense on Harden was tremendous. His impact in the game did not show up in the box score, but every night he’s had his imprint on our wins, every single night.

“And he does it selflessly. He doesn’t care if he gets the credit. He just wants to win games and he’s an absolute stud. I love him. I think he’s everything we want to be as Hornets — selfless, tough, physical, two-way player. I think he’s just growing and blossoming offensively as well. To have the confidence to shoot the ball the way he is right now is only going to blossom his full game right now. Tremendous start for him.”

THE GORDON PLAN

At the outset of training camp, Borrego revealed the Hornets intended to lean on their training staff when it came to keeping Gordon Hayward healthy and available all season.

Placing him in some sort of load management was discussed, but there didn’t seem to be any hard distinctive breakdown of how they were going to rest Hayward. They’ve let him stay off his feet during a couple of practices already and perhaps that’s why they didn’t feel the need to sit on the tail end of the season’s first set of games on consecutive nights.

It doesn’t sound like he will be doing it any time soon, either.

“We’ll take it one back-to-back at a time,” Borrego said. “He feels good, he feels steady. So right now the plan is not to sit out on back-to-backs. We could get to that point at some point, but we are not there now.”

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