The Charlotte Hornets were supposed to be really bad this season. We talked about this in the first entry of this series, so we don’t have to harp on it anymore. But it’s important to remember that as a frame for the importance of this game against the Indiana Pacers.
The Hornets were fresh off an ugly win against an ugly Golden State Warriors team that moved them to 3-3. They had a chance to cross over .500 with a win against a Pacers team without their twin towers, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis. The game started really poorly. Clunky Hornets offense and hot Pacers shooting combined to create an early double digit lead for the Pacers. The Hornets found their offensive footing in the last few minutes of the quarter, but hot Pacers shooting kept the gap at 15 points through one quarter.
Miles Bridges and Malik Monk kickstarted an offensive explosion for the Hornets in the second quarter. The Hornets scored 37 points in the period, led by 11 points from Devonte’ Graham and 10 from PJ Washington, most of which came in the final few minutes of the quarter during an electric 20-5 Hornets run. TJ Warren and Malcolm Brogdon kept the Pacers ahead by not missing a single shot no matter the difficulty. At the half, the Hornets trailed by seven.
The third quarter was very reminiscent of the first. The Hornets hit just 6-of-19 shots and scored only 21 points in the quarter. A three-and-a-half minute scoreless drought in the second half of the period was the primary culprit for that. The deficit the Hornets fought so hard to erase was back up to 14.
The Hornets played the entire fourth quarter with a lineup of Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, Cody Martin, Miles Bridges, and Bismack Biyombo. These were Biyombo’s first minutes of the game. He quickly made an impact with a nice tip-in off a missed Terry Rozier floater. Rozier made two impossible shots on back to back possessions to get the team and the crowd fired up. And then we got this:
Those three possessions were the first of a 16-0 Hornets run that turned a 13 point deficit into a three point lead in less than three minutes of game time. The teams went back and forth for the rest of what was a very tense fourth quarter. The Hornets missed a couple free throws to leave the door open for the Pacers, who tied the game and sent it to overtime with a Malcolm Brogdon layup.
The Hornets kept that same lineup on the floor for overtime, which functioned as a perfect continuation of the fourth quarter. Brogdon kept up his unstoppable scoring and was answered by a Biz tip-in. Jeremy Lamb made a driving layup and was answered by Graham’s own layup a few possessions later. Graham got fouled on the layup by TJ Leaf, who basically did nothing but commit fouls in his 14 minutes of court time.
That proved to be the trend for the remainder of the game. Graham broke a 118-118 tie with free throws after JaKarr Sampson pushed him in the back chasing after a rebound. Jeremy Lamb re-tied the game with his trademark pull-up after Cody Martin disrupted a Brogdon isolation by poking the ball away.
The Hornets ran what would become a late game staple for them. Biz caught the inbound, who handed off to Graham. Graham ripped through on his way up into his shot, drawing another foul on Sampson. He hit the first two free throws before intentionally missing the third to run out the clock.
Graham finished with a Hornets record and career high (since broken) 35 points off the bench. The win moved the Hornets to 4-3, which would’ve been unheard of coming into the season. This win really established how fun a team the Hornets would be for the 2019-20 season.