If you’re looking for an ideal start to a basketball game, this one was it. The Hornets jumped out to a 20-0 lead in just over five minutes of action. The Rockets committed eight turnovers before they made their first basket. Four of those were courtesy of James Harden, who committed several egregious miscues. The Hornets capitalized and shot the ball well on the offensive end, giving them a 30-17 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter was a near perfect inverse of the first. The Hornets committed four turnovers before making their first field goal while the Rockets outscored them 10-0 in under three minutes to cut the Hornets lead down to three. Caleb Martin finally got the Hornets on the board with a 3-pointer. Later in the quarter, the Hornets scored seven straight points off a 4-point play by Terry Rozier and a 3-point play by PJ Washington on consecutive possessions. Those plays kicked off a 12-0 Hornets run that helped them to a 14-point lead at the half. The Hornets limited Harden to 3-of-9 shooting and forced him to commit seven turnovers in the first half.
The Rockets started the second half with a renewed energy and focus. They poured in 19 points in the first six minutes of the half, but Terry Rozier had an answer. He scored 12 straight points for the Hornets coming out of the break, including his second 4-point play of the game. Some back and forth for the rest of the quarter resulted in an 82-76 Hornets lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hornets started the fourth quarter with a 12-4 run to take a 14-point lead by the middle of the period. The Hornets really put the clamps on the defensive end. They forced James Harden into three turnovers with a couple minutes of one another, giving him 10 for the game. PJ Washington hit a three (off Cody Martin’s career high eighth assist) and converted an alley oop on back to back plays to put the Hornets up 13 with three minutes to go. A PJ Tucker three pulled the Rockets within eight with just over a minute to go, but a Devonte’ Graham three (from Cody Martin again) ended any hopes of a Rockets comeback.
The Hornets never trailed or were tied at any point in this game. They held the Rockets, the league’s second best offense, under 100 points, meaning they held each of the league’s top two offenses under 100 within the same week. They played zone most of the night, which took away a lot of Harden’s driving lanes and mucked up the Rockets spacing. When the Rockets did get the Hornets moving, their rotations were picturesque.
Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier stayed hot from deep by going 10-of-17 from beyond the arc. PJ Washington’s 22 points gives him back to back 20 point games for the first time in his career. Cody Zeller didn’t put up big numbers in the box score, but he was +25 for the night and gave the Rockets all sorts of problems on the defensive end.
Up next for the Hornets is a visit to the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.