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Brandon Miller’s virtuoso shooting puts him in company with Steph Curry in Hornets’ win

Brandon Miller shot himself into some elite company Friday night.

Steph Curry-type of elite.

Miller, the Hornets’ brilliant rookie, put on a first-half performance that was nothing short of virtuoso in Charlotte’s 124-115 win over the Orlando Magic in the Spectrum Center. His first-half stats: 10 of 10 from the field, 5 of 5 from the 3-point line and 1 of 1 from the free-throw line en route to 26 points.

The Hornets (19-58) led at the break, 67-52 — and used that lead to carry them into a confidence-building win against a team with plenty to play for, as Orlando (45-32) vies for the No. 3 or No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference standings with playoffs not far away.

But that first half?

Miller became only the second player in NBA history to score 25-plus points with 100% shooting from the field, 100% shooting from the free-throw line and 100% shooting from 3 (with five or more threes attempted). The first was Charlotte native and Davidson Cinderella and game-of-basketball-shifting shooter Stephen Curry, who put together that performance in 2021, according to StatMuse.

“That’s a great accomplishment,” said Miller, who finished with 32 points and six rebounds in Friday’s win. He was admittedly surprised at the numbers, the history. “He’s one of the greats. Definitely a great shooter. So being in that category, I think that’s a blessing.”

Head coach Steve Clifford had a similar, giddy reaction when he heard that stat.

“Wow,” Clifford said, chuckling in disbelief. “That’s incredible.”

Every shot Miller hit seemed to be memorable, particularly in that first half. There was his first bucket, where he swished through a contested 18-footer while contorting his body in the air. There was that three he hit a bit later on, off the dribble right before Orlando could collapse a double-team on him. There was also an and-one layup finish that got the crowd going early — one that prompted a Miller scowl and flex as if to signal to the 16,374 on hand: Today is my day.

Equally as important, perhaps, there were no shots Miller wished he had back. There were no “heat checks” for the rookie, even when his second half slowed because the Magic sent another to him and opened up the rest of the team for scoring opportunities.

That unselfishness — that unwillingness to settle for a bad shot because of a good performance — speaks to his maturity as a player, Clifford said.

Charlotte Hornets forward/guard Brandon Miller, right, releases a jump shot over Boston Celtics guard Derrick White, left, during first quarter action at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC on Monday, April 1, 2024.
Charlotte Hornets forward/guard Brandon Miller, right, releases a jump shot over Boston Celtics guard Derrick White, left, during first quarter action at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, NC on Monday, April 1, 2024.

“You’ve been watching him all year,” Clifford said. “He’s a very mature, very poised player. I mean, the things he does, you can’t teach. And it’s interesting watching him: All of the stuff that you want him to do as a team, he’s good at. But then all the things as a coach that you have no say over, he’s good at that too.

“We function well when he’s out there because the team stuff, he’s great at, and then he’s a talented guy. He’s a great competitor. Great competitor.”

If you surveyed Charlotteans before the game, most probably would predict that there wouldn’t be many deafening roars rising in the Spectrum Center. Orlando is a good and motivated team — and Charlotte is one that has already started clearing a path for 2024-25 and beyond, even so far as searching for a new head coach as Clifford plays out the rest of his tenure.

But Friday belonged to the Hornets. The night belonged to Miller, even though the rookie deflected that responsibility after the game.

One thing he wouldn’t deflect, though, was that he could perhaps do it again.

When asked if it was just one of those nights when he felt like everything would fall, when he felt that everything would go right, Miller smiled:

“Every night’s like that,” he said.