NEW ORLEANS — It was little brother’s night on Friday inside the Smoothie King Center — and almost a historic one too.
Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball nearly became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, as he posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a 118-110 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and big brother Lonzo Ball.
LaMelo, at 19 years, 139 days, would have passed Markelle Fultz (19 years, 317 days) to become the youngest ever to accomplish the feat.
The victory for the youngest Ball sibling against his big brother was even sweeter considering LaMelo helped the Hornets come back from an 18-point deficit to do so. His assist to Gordon Hayward with 3:44 to play helped give Charlotte a four-point cushion.
The performance was reminiscent of Lonzo’s second career game for the Los Angeles Lakers, when he also nearly became the youngest player to post a triple-double (29 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists). On Friday, Lonzo, now 23, finished with just five points, three assists, two rebounds, one block and one steal.
LaMelo said it was “cool” to be able to share the floor with his brother but that he also was happy his team was able to get the win. He noted that he wasn’t scared of the moment on national TV, either.
“Not at all. I’ve been in this for a minute now,” LaMelo said after the victory. “I had ESPN games since I was a kid. So it was all normal.”
Charlotte coach James Borrego said LaMelo played “free and easy” throughout the game.
“That’s kind of what we expect of him,” Borrego said postgame. “It’s like he’s done this before, he’s been there before. He’s not fazed by the moment. I’m just proud of him. He’s a fantastic player. He energizes our group. He brings us great confidence, a swagger that we need, at times. I thought he was fantastic tonight.”
As Lonzo put it Thursday, it was the first “real” game the two ever had played in against each other — outside of some 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 games in the backyard of their home while kids.
Since LaMelo comes off the bench for the Hornets, their first on-court action together on Friday didn’t come until he checked in at the 6:38 mark of the first quarter. The two guarded each other for only a handful of possessions, but baby brother did manage to get the best of Lonzo a couple of times, as he wrapped around Lonzo for a layup midway through the second quarter and ended the third with a deep 3-pointer with his brother on him.
“It was just a side step and I pulled the 3,” LaMelo explained.
Prior to the game, Borrego was asked to compare the two, who were the first brothers to each be selected in the top three picks of the NBA draft.
“I think they are leaders out there,” Borrego said. “They’ve got great vision. You can tell they know the game at a high level. I think that’s the common thread, is that they both understand the game at a high level and their teammates like playing with them. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
LaMelo became the second-youngest Hornet to record a double-double, with only Michael Kidd-Gilchrist doing it at a younger age.
No matter the outcome, Friday night’s game was a realization of a lifelong dream for the siblings.
“When we were younger, we always talked about it,” LaMelo said Thursday. “We always knew we were going to the league. Now the time has finally come. We’re both excited.”