Wednesday, December 8, 2021

LaMelo Ball draws ‘MVP’ chants during third-quarter takeover in Hornets’ improbable opening night comeback win

In case you forgot just how dynamic Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball can be on the basketball court, he wasted no time reminding audiences in the very first game of his second NBA season.

In Charlotte’s thrilling 123-122 opening-night victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year dropped 31 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, tying his career high by making seven 3-pointers in just nine attempts. Ball was particularly spectacular in the third quarter when he sparked an improbable 24-0 run as the Hornets erased a 23-point deficit in just eight minutes of game time. As Ball prepared to shoot free throws with just over five minutes left in the third quarter, he was serenaded by “MVP” chants from the Spectrum Center faithful.

“Yeah definitely, I heard it,” Ball said of the flattering chants after the game.” The city turnt. I love it. We’re gonna keep on trying to win.”

Ball thoroughly dominated the third quarter, scoring 12 of his 31 points while pulling down five rebounds and dishing out two assists. He provided a much-needed boost of momentum as the Hornets launched their massive comeback.

Ball’s confidence and swagger have been obvious since the day he set foot on a basketball court, playing against much older competition all his life with his brothers, Lonzo and LiAngelo. So it’s not surprising to see the youngest Ball brother unafraid of the big moment. What is surprising, however, has been his shooting stroke.

The big knock on Ball entering the draft, and what may have allowed him to drop to No. 3 overall, was his sporadic track record as a shooter. He shot just 25 percent from the 3-point line in 12 games in the Australian NBL prior to entering the NBA. Some scouts suggested that his low percentage was more a product of poor shot selection and that Ball had the free throw percentage and confidence to project as a competent NBA shooter.

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So far those optimistic scouts have looked wise, as Ball hit 35 percent of his 3-pointers as a rookie and just went 7-for-9 from deep in the first game of his sophomore season. Ball recently said that he sees himself staying in Charlotte for a long time, and he’s showing that his journey toward stardom is well underway.

“You supposed to just go to a team and build from there — I feel like that’s how it should be,” LaMelo said, via The Athletic. “Especially when you, like, a high pick too, most likely going to a team that wasn’t as good, so you try to make them better. I feel like that’s the whole process right there.”  

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