Gordon Hayward scored 34 points, including a career high 28 in the first half, while LaMelo Ball hauled in a career high 14 rebounds as the Charlotte Hornets easily defeated the New York Knicks, 109-88.
The Hornets started the game on a 10-0 run that later grew into a 19-5 lead halfway through the first quarter. Their play on both side of the ball was wondrous. They shared the ball well on offense and gave the Knicks no open looks on the other end. Gordon Hayward scored 13 first quarter points. Devonte’ Graham hit three shots, with all coming inside the arc, and dished out four assists. LaMelo Ball did LaMelo Ball things with four rebounds and three assists, with one of those assists being of the full court baseball pass variety.
LaMelo must have been watching the NFL playoffs yesterday— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) January 12, 2021
The Knicks hit three 3-pointers in the latter part of the quarter, which helped them cut a Hornets lead that had been as large as 17 down to six as the quarter came to a close.
The Hornets ran into some offensive struggles early in the second quarter. They missed a couple decent looks, but the problem seemed to be more an issue of shot selection. The Knicks run eventually carried on long enough to give them the lead, but we did get Gordon Hayward dunking on Nerlens Noel.
GET UP @gordonhayward! #AllFly | @hornets pic.twitter.com/KHIUtagpUl— FOX Sports: Hornets (@HornetsOnFSSE) January 12, 2021
Hayward did other less flashy things to help the Hornets get their lead back, like making several free throws and a couple short jumpers. At the half, he had 28 points and the Hornets led 57-50.
Hayward got a couple buckets in the early part of the second half to help the Hornets briefly reestablish their double digit lead. They held the Knicks to just 18 points in what was an ugly third quarter for the most part. The Hornets finished the quarter strong with an 8-1 run to take a 14 point lead into the fourth quarter.
Devonte’ Graham found Miles Bridges for an open dunk out of a high screen and roll to start the fourth quarter, a sign of good things to come. PJ Washington got a huge block to energize the defense and hit a 3-pointer shortly afterwards.
We got a brief little kerfuffle after Bismack Biyombo wrapped up Julius Randle to prevent an easy layup. Randle shoved Biyombo and was assessed a technical foul, but the situation never escalated.
The Hornets did a lot of their damage in the fourth quarter from the free throw line, as it never really felt like they were getting any explosive offense. LaMelo Ball dropped the dagger with a step-back three over Elfrid Payton to put the Hornets up 20 with just over three minutes to play. Ball found Bridges for two more easy dunks out of the same play the Hornets opened the quarter with to bring the whole thing full circle.
While Ball struggled to score efficiently, he was a huge factor on the glass and setting up his teammates. He dropped seven dimes and registered three steals.
Devonte’ Graham recaptured some of his scoring prowess, scoring 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting to go along with seven assists and three steals of his own.
The Hornets are slated to take on the Mavericks on Wednesday, but that game is very much up in the air given the Mavericks covid problems. If that game isn’t played, the Hornets will be back in action with back-to-back games in Tampa against the Raptors.