Sports

LaMelo Ball outplays Luka Doncic in Hornets’ win over Mavericks

LaMelo Ball’s NBA career is less than two weeks old, but the Hornets rookie already has a signature win.

Ball and Charlotte (2-2) beat Luka Doncic and the Mavericks (1-3) on Wednesday night, 118-99. Ball had his best night as an NBA player so far, scoring a game-high 22 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. In defeat, Doncic scored only 12 points with five assists.

“LaMelo’s showing growth every single game,” Hornets coach James Borrego told media postgame. “He had his fingerprints all over that game…playing with poise, confidence. He was a calming force out there for us.”

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Ball, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, has come off the bench for his first four NBA games. He entered Wednesday night averaging 6.3 points per game — he’d made a few highlights, especially as a passer, but his impact had been pretty minimal.

That all changed against the Mavericks, as Ball came out aggressively. He got to the line soon after entering, then dished out a couple of assists before nailing a 3-pointer from 30 feet out. Then he grabbed an offensive rebound to hit a buzzer beater at the end of the first quarter.

By the fourth quarter, with the game well out of reach, Ball hit a right-elbow jumper, a left-wing 3-pointer and then a switch-hands layup to ensure there’d be no Mavs comeback.

One of the biggest concerns about Ball entering the NBA was his shooting. In the highlights above, it’s obvious his mechanics aren’t conventional — there’s a whole lot of leg movement. But against Dallas, that didn’t stop him from hitting four of his five attempts from beyond the arc.

Ball is always going to be a big story due to his family. His older brother Lonzo plays for the Pelicans, and their father LaVar has made a big to-do for years about how good his sons are. Whether Ball overcomes the various worries about his game in a long NBA career remains to be seen.

For one night, though, Ball looked like he might be the best player on the floor.

“Melo’s a great player,” Hornets forward Miles Bridges told media postgame. “He’s the third pick for a reason.”

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