It's not often that you get to play against your brother in an NBA game, and it's even rarer for the first such instance to be nationally televised, so it must have been a special night for LaMelo Ball and his brother Lonzo Ball. The Charlotte Hornets defeated the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, 118-110, in the first-ever matchup between the Ball brothers -- not just in the NBA, but in their entire lives. The highly anticipated event came to be known as the "Ball Bowl."
Round one of what will likely be many matchups over the course of their careers went to LaMelo, who finished one assist shy of a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in 25 minutes and, more importantly, picked up the win. Had he completed the feat, he would have become the youngest player to produce a triple-double in NBA history. As it stands, he's the youngest since LeBron James to put up at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists -- LeBron did it two days before his 19th birthday during his rookie season of 2003-04, while Ball was 19 years, 139 days old on Friday night.
"I pretty much just go out there and play," LaMelo Ball said after the game. "My mom and dad raised a killer, I feel like, so I just let the chips fall where they fall."
Meanwhile older brother Lonzo struggled all game long, going 1-for-7 from 3-point range while finishing with five points, three assists and two rebounds. Statistics aren't everything, particularly for a player like Lonzo, but LaMelo was a plus-five in his minutes while Lonzo ended up at minus-7.
The most Instagrammable moment came with time running out in the third quarter, when LaMelo swished a step-back 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of his brother to cut the New Orleans lead to five.
No night involving a member of the Ball family could end without controversy, however. With the Hornets leading in the game's final minute, LaMelo caught the ball on the wing with the shot clock winding down and squared up to shoot, but instead passed the ball to Miles Bridges, who was forced to heave the ball toward the basket with less than a second left. It led the ESPN broadcasting crew to question whether Ball may have been hunting his 10th assist, therefore hurting his team in the pursuit of NBA history.
here's the play that led ESPN announcers to question whether LaMelo Ball was hunting a triple-double at the end of the game ... teammate Bismack Biyombo then got in LaMelo's face about something (maybe something else, maybe he was joking) after the game ... pic.twitter.com/7pn81QFQMf— Colin Ward-Henninger (@ColinCBSSports) January 9, 2021
Following the game, Hornets vet Bismack Biyombo looked annoyed or angry with his rookie teammate, though we don't yet know why or if he even could have even been joking around.
Regardless of the ending, LaMelo played a tremendous game. After a scoreless NBA debut, Ball has put up some gaudy numbers while looking extremely comfortable despite his age. He entered Friday's game with per-36-minute averages of 17.6 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists, but has cracked the 30-minute mark just twice in his nine games. Ball is still figuring things out defensively and has two very good guards starting ahead of him in Terry Rozier and Devonte' Graham, but you'd have to think that if he continues to play this well that Hornets coach James Borrego is going to have to find a way to get his entertaining rookie more time on the court.