The winning well dried up for the Charlotte Hornets not long after Devonte’ Graham’s 40-point outburst against the Brooklyn Nets. The Hornets picked up a couple wins after that game, then proceeded to drop six straight.
The turn of the calendar to 2020 and a visit to one of the worst teams in the league gave the Hornets an opportunity to reverse their fortunes. The Cleveland Cavaliers had won four of their previous six games, but they were still the Cavs. This was a winnable game for the Hornets.
The game followed the ebbs and flows that were so common of Hornets games this season. The Hornets started slowly and fell behind, rallied to get back in to the game, then fell behind again, and so on. By the later parts of the third quarter, the game had pretty much leveled out. The Hornets went cold as the end of the quarter drew near, and the Cavs took a six point lead with them as the fourth quarter began.
Kevin Porter Jr. opened the fourth quarter with a running layup to put the Cavs up by five. Dwayne Bacon answered with a three. There would only be two points scored by Hornets other than Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham the rest of the way.
Miles Bridges clanged a couple open threes, PJ Washington chucked a pass off the bottom of the rim, and the Hornets committed sloppy turnovers with a lone Rozier 3-pointer as the only respite as the Cavs built up a ten point lead. The Hornets had only put up six points at the midway point of the quarter.
The tide shifted when Devonte’ Graham got John Henson up in the air with a pump fake before leaning into him to earn three free throws. He hit them all. The Hornets went on a 9-0 run starting with their next possession, with Rozier and Graham responsible for seven of the points (Graham assisted on the other bucket—a PJ Washington post up against an overmatched Collin Sexton). When Cavs finally stopped the run with a three, Rozier quickly answered with a three of his own to tie the game back up.
The Cavs helped the Hornets with their comeback attempt by taking turns over-dribbling and throwing awful shots at the basket. With the comeback complete, Rozier fell into that same trap, trying to do too much and grinding the offense to a halt. The teams entered the final minute of play tied at 103 coming off five straight empty possessions.
Devonte’ Graham was the remedy for the Hornets ailing offense. He calmly dribbled the shot clock all the way down and pulled up for one of his patented deep 3-pointers.
The Hornets got a stop on the ensuing Cavs possession and were able to ice the game with free throws.
The Hornets scored 27 points in the fourth quarter. All 27 were either scored or assisted by Rozier or Graham. The duo scored 22 of the team’s last 24 points of the game. In total, the Hornets back court finished with 46 points (30 from Rozier) and 14 assists (11 from Graham).
The Hornets starting back court as arguably been the team’s brightest spot all season. This game was a quintessential example of that.