The Charlotte Hornets gave the New York Knicks everything they could handle in Madison Square Garden. They just came up a little short in the 134-131 loss. This is their first road loss of the season and they are now sitting at 2-2 on the season. Charlotte is still without three key players in LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Cody Martin, but they had some help from their bench in New York. Their bench put up 54 points, including a strong 17 which came from Jalen McDaniels. It was not enough to gut out this win, but Gordon Hayward feels like the onus is on him.

“I had it going in the third, but could not find it in the third [quarter] or in overtime,” Hayward said. “I felt like I passed up some looks at the end of the fourth and in overtime. I could of just taken them and let it go. We just gotta be better. I individually just gotta be better.”

Hayward finished with a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds, and four assists on 8-for-18 shooting from the field. He hit a lot of timely shots in the third to eventually give the Hornets the lead, even pouring in 12 straight points in one particular outburst.

Unfortunately, he just struggled to maintain his rhythm to put the Knicks to bed in the fourth and OT. The Knicks defense paid a little more attention to Hayward since the other go to guys for Charlotte were not available. His performance was still solid though. Without his scoring and playmaking, this game might have been over in the third quarter without Hayward catching fire. Props should go to the veteran leader for shouldering the load.

Dennis Smith Jr. played well in his return to the Big Apple

Dennis Smith returned to face his former team and played well in MSG. He finished with 14 points and 11 assists. It was actually his 10th double-double of his career and his 11th double-digit assists game. Smith’s sudden resurgence is a good sign for Steve Clifford and Hornets fans. If he can continue to play at this level and hold down the fort until the top guns come back, this bench could be scary for opposing teams to face. With Smith spearheading the second unit, there is no telling how fun they could look in the open floor.

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Other pieces of that bench are fun to watch too. Theo Maledon put up 15 points and four assists in 16 minutes off the bench. Maledon could be a solid piece for the rest of the season coming off the bench. He has been in the league for three years and is only 21 years old. Compile that with his 56 career starts and he is borderline a veteran player in this league already. His experience showed out there on the floor on both sides of the ball. Making the easy pass, helping on defensive rotations, and making heady plays on or off the ball. Along with Nick Richards and Jalen McDaniels in that second unit and the Hornets could be a good bench team.

Weather the storm

Sure the Hornets are 2-2, but the guys will be back soon. Ball is yet to play a game this season after getting hurt in the preseason. He has been seen putting up shots after practice and before games though. It looks as if his return could come sooner rather than later. The Hornets have the Orlando Magic and their hot rookie Paolo Banchero coming next on the road. Hopefully they can let off some steam in Disney Land before returning to Charlotte.