We’ve only focused on the positives so far in this rewind series, but the Charlotte Hornets suffered two early season losses that deserve to be revisited if only for their sheer improbability. One of those includes a jinx from yours truly that needs to be shared with the world.
The first loss came to the Chicago Bulls in late November. The Hornets dug themselves into a big first quarter hole by allowing the Bulls to score 34 first quarter points. They tightened up on the defensive end after that, holding the Bulls to just 35 combined points in the second and third quarters. They slowly climbed back into the game and took a five point lead into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was full of fireworks. It started with a backdoor alley oop from Nicolas Batum to Malik Monk. After a sweeping Miles Bridges hook, Terry Rozier found Monk for another huge alley oop to put the Hornets up 11.
Zach LaVine answered with a deep three that would foreshadow what was to come. Neither team could get stops the rest of the way. The Hornets made 15-of-18 shots and scored 41 points in the fourth quarter. The Bulls were somehow able to outdo that with 47 points of their own. Zach Lavine scored 27 of his 49 points in the quarter and hit seven 3-pointers.
But it was the end of that quarter that makes this a story. Terry Rozier hit a 3-pointer to put the Hornets up 108-100 with a minute to go. I was writing the recap for this game, and I started to put a bow on my recap of a Hornets win.
Wendell Carter Jr. made a dunk. No big deal. The Hornets answered with a Bismack Biyombo dunk. They’ve got this. They’re up eight with 45 seconds to go. What could go wrong?
Zach LaVine made a three to cut into the deficit. The Hornets got two points back, but LaVine banked in a three from the logo to inch the Bulls closer. Terry Rozier missed a free throw, which meant a Coby White layup pulled the Bulls even closer. Two Devonte’ Graham free throws put the Hornets up five with 15 seconds to go and set the stage for disaster.
Tomas Satoransky hit a three to pull the Bulls within two with seven seconds to play. Without a timeout, the Hornets were forced to inbound to Devonte’ Graham under the basket. He was trapped and lost the ball. LaVine took the ball, sprinted to the 3-point line, and hit his 13th three of the game at the buzzer to give the Bulls a one point win.
Just nine days later. the Hornets were visited by the Phoenix Suns, who were in the midst of a three game losing streak. The Hornets again dug themselves into a massive hole, trailing by 20 points at halftime. In typical Hornets fashion, they came roaring back in the second half and eventually tied the game up early in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets built a small lead as the game wound down. Devonte’ Graham hit a pair of free throws to put the Hornets up by seven with 1:11 left to play. That’s normally a safe lead, but the result of that Bulls game a little over a week prior showed that there’s no such thing as a sure win for this Hornets team.
Former Hornet Frank Kaminsky hit a floater while getting fouled to pull the Suns within five, which on its own isn’t a big deal. He missed the free throw, which should be good for the Hornets. But the Hornets couldn’t track down the rebound. Kaminsky gathered his own missed free throw, which never happens. The ball eventually found Kelly Oubre, who canned a triple to pull the Suns within two. Bismack Biyombo got his shot blocked on the other end, and the ball again found Oubre on the return trip, and he drained yet another three.
Oubre forced a turnover after the Hornets inbounded, and the Suns hit their free throws to put the game away.
In the final minute of those two games, the Hornets were outscored by a combined margin of 26-7. 26 points allowed in two game minutes. They blew two leads of at least seven points in the final minute of a game within a nine day span, and both games were at home.
This season has been extraordinarily fun, and these two losses provide a perfect foil to all the Hornets nail-biter victories and illustrate just how unpredictable this team is on a night-to-night and even play-to-play basis.