Terry Rozier led six Hornets in double figures with 17 while Cody Zeller and Devonte’ Graham each notched double doubles, but it wasn’t enough as the Charlotte Hornets were outdueled by Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers bench brigade, 111-96.
The Hornets started about as poorly as they could, looking flat playing their second game in as many nights in the Staples Center. They lost Landry Shamet for four early 3-pointers and dug themselves a double digit hole in only a few minutes. It would’ve been easy for the Hornets to mail it in from that point, but they didn’t. Devonte’ Graham spurred a 17-4 run to end the quarter, beating the Clippers both as a scorer and a distributor.
The second quarter was a near copy of the Hornets play against the Lakers. The two teams traded baskets for the whole twelve minutes, with neither team building a lead greater than five points. The Hornets did a much better job limiting the Clippers from the perimeter, but struggled a bit to keep the Clippers off the free throw line. At the half, the Hornets trailed by just two, and six players had scored between six and ten points.
The Clippers scored the first five points of the third quarter, teasing the second half meltdowns that have plagued the Hornets through three games. Cody Zeller stemmed the tide with a 3-pointer, just like he did to start the game. The third quarter wasn’t terrible, but the Clippers did gradually build their lead to double figures despite the best efforts of Malik Monk. The third year guard drew three offensive fouls and scored six straight points while the Clippers tried to pull ahead. After three, the Hornets trailed by 12.
The gulf between these two teams really showed in the minutes spanning the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter. The Hornets didn’t play noticeably worse than the Clippers, but they couldn’t string together made shots with the same consistency. The Hornets took a timeout with just under eight minutes to go and a 17-point deficit even without the Clippers going on a notable scoring spurt. The Hornets made a push, going on a 7-0 run capped off by a Miles Bridges three that cut the deficit to eight, but the bench duo of Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams were too much for the Hornets to handle on the other end.
The Hornets continue to struggle in the second halves of games, but that’s to be expected with a young team. Devonte’ Graham continued his strong start to the season with his first career double double. Cody Zeller did the same with his third double double in as many games. Miles Bridges had a quiet offensive game, but he did a very good job containing Kawhi Leonard when left on an island. Malik Monk had by far his best game of the season with 15 points.
The Hornets gave the Clippers a fight, and that’s about as much as we can reasonably expect on the road against a title contender. The schedule lightens up as the Hornets travel to Sacramento to take on a winless Kings team that currently has the worst point differential in the NBA.