The Charlotte Hornets began the 2020-21 season by bringing the No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball off the bench for the first 20 games. In his first game, he played 15 minutes but with each game, his playtime kept going up as he kept putting up great numbers in limited minutes.
By the end of the 20-game sample size, he was playing between 27-31 minutes as a reserve. In just his 10th career game, at 19 years and 140 days, he became the youngest player ever to record a triple-double.
Inserted into the starting lineup due to injuries to Terry Rozier and Devonte' Graham over the past few games, Ball continues to impress and grow. Against the Houston Rockets, his fifth game as a starter, he set and broke more NBA and franchise records.
Heading into the final quarter, the game was a close one as Hornets only led by 80-77, but in the fourth, the hosts opened it up. In the first 7:40 of the final quarter, the Hornets went on a 19-1 run before eventually outscoring the Rockets 29-7 in the fourth to win 119-94.
Ball scored or assisted 12 of those 19 points including this lob to his favourite lob alley-oop partner.
LaMelo to Miles alert! 🚨💥- NBA (@NBA) February 9, 2021
Mid-4Q on NBA TV pic.twitter.com/4igkfzv1qv
His lone field goal in that run, a 3-pointer - his seventh of the game - helped him tie the franchise single-game record for most 3-pointers by a rookie.
LaMelo ties the @hornets rookie record with 7 threes! 💦@MELOD1P: 24 PTS | 10 AST pic.twitter.com/aVHEV3SnPz- NBA (@NBA) February 9, 2021
His final numbers of 24 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds are the best put up by a rookie since Stephen Curry in 2010 and put him alongside some elite company.
According to @EliasSports, LaMelo Ball is the 3rd player age 19 or younger to record multiple games of 20 points, 10 assist and 5 rebounds, joining LeBron James and Luka Doncic.- ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 9, 2021
He finished with 24 points, 10 assist and 7 rebounds tonight in a win vs the Rockets. pic.twitter.com/K3szb4eMlh
His 3-point barrage from long distance also made him only the third rookie ever, after Jason Kidd and Stephen Curry, to knock down seven 3-pointers while dishing out at least 10 assists.
"[LaMelo] oozes confidence," Hornets head coach James Borrego said postgame. "He believes it's going in. That's at least half the battle in this thing. He's going to continue that. He's fearless. He's going to continue to shoot it. He's got great confidence in [his shot] and he's going to keep getting reps and better shots as he goes. It's a great weapon to have and it sets up a lot of his game with the way he can get to the rim."
Ball was one of six players to score in double figures as the Hornets drilled 19 3-pointers on 41 attempts. For Houston, who were playing without John Wall, Christian Wood, and Eric Gordon, Victor Oladipo was top contributor with 21 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.
Through 25 games, Ball is leading all rookies in all but a couple of major stat categories with averages of 14.2 points (1st), 6.2 assists (1st), 5.9 rebounds (2nd), and 1.4 steals (1st).
Coming into his rookie year, the efficiency of his long-range shots, or lack thereof, was considered to be a huge factor but in his five starts, including this one against the Rockets, he's knocking them down at an efficiency of 52.6% (10-19).
Given the rest of his averages, as a starter, at 22.6 points, 6.6 assists, and 6.0 rebounds, he's certainly making the starting point guard position his own.
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