PJ Washignton led all scorers with 27 points, the most ever for a Hornet in his career debut. As part of that, he hit seven 3-pointers, the most by a player in his debut in the history of the NBA. Devonte’ Graham scored 23 points and Dwayne Bacon chipped in 22 as the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Chicago Bulls, 126-125.
After a couple of clunky opening possessions, Dwayne Bacon opened the Hornets scoring with a tip in off his own miss. That got the Hornets going as they jumped on the Bulls with a breakneck pace of play and good ball movement. Rookie PJ Washington announced his presence to the league by hitting all three of his 3-point attempts in the game’s first five minutes. After a slight lull, the Hornets ripped off an 11-0 run that included a couple very impressive plays from Malik Monk. After one, the Hornets led 37-28.
Terry Rozier opened his account with a corner 3-pointer early in the second quarter. Miles Bridges roasted Lauri Markkanen with a spin move off a drive and then got a huge block on a Zach LaVine layup attempt. He built off that with a couple of strong drives against Bulls guards. PJ Washington hit another pair of 3-pointers, giving him a game leading 17 points at the half. The Hornets led 63-55 at the break.
The Hornets didn’t start the second half with the same gusto they had in the first. The offense was disjointed and the defense was out of sync. The Bulls used an 11-4 run to pull within one and force a James Borrego timeout, after which Terry Rozier snapped the run with a 4-point play. The Hornets trailed 84-82 with three minutes left in the quarter. They led 96-95 by the time the buzzer sounded. In that time, Devonte’ Graham, Marvin Williams (x2), and PJ Washington each hit three balls. Washington’s gave him a franchise record 22 points for a debut performance. But perhaps more impressively, he became the first player in the history of the NBA to hit at least six 3-pointers in the first game of his career.
Devonte’ Graham got the fourth quarter started with another 3-pointer and a beautiful pocket pass to PJ Washington in the pick and roll. It felt apart shortly thereafter. Sloppy offensive possessions led to Bulls run outs for easy buckets. It resulted in a 14-1 Bulls run that put the Hornets in a double digit hole.
But this team won’t go down without a fight. Devonte’ Graham and PJ Washington got hot from three again and, along with Dwayne Bacon, pulled the Hornets back into the game. A Cody Zeller dunk gave the Hornets the lead and a Dwayne Bacon 3-pointer extended it to four. A pair of Lauri Markkanen free throws brought the Bulls within one possession with under a minute to go. Graham recovered the offensive rebound after a missed Bacon three to bleed the clock all the way down under 20 seconds before Cody Zeller was fouled. He hit one of two free throws, giving the Bulls a chance to tie. The Hornets quickly fouled, putting Markkanen on the line, where he made a pair. Graham responded with a pair of his own free throws to put the Hornets back up three. Zach Lavine inexplicably bled a good amount of clock to make a layup with 4.5 seconds left and no timeouts. The Hornets were able to inbound the ball and run out the clock.
This game was insanely fun to watch. The Hornets hit a franchise record 23 3-pointers and played at a frenetic pace that was enthralling. Along with Washington’s record setting tonight, Devonte’ Graham went 6-of-7 from deep while Marvin Williams made five of his seven attempts. Cody Zeller notched a strong double double, scoring 15 points and hauling in 12 rebounds.
It wasn’t a perfect performance. The Hornets struggled on the defensive glass and turned the ball over too much, but that’s to be expected from a young team. Overall it was a very encouraging display and should get everyone excited for the rest of the season.
The Hornets will look to keep the good times rolling against the Timberwolves on Friday.