In what brought back some fond memories from the 2019-2020 season, Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham each knocked down a triple in the final 1:10 to give the Charlotte Hornets a 108-105 edge over the Indiana Pacers.
Gordon Hayward started the scoring for Charlotte in the best way possible: an ankle-breaking step-back jumper from the free throw line that sent Justin Holiday to the floor.
The Hornets offense moved the ball well right from the get-go, and players were mostly knocking down their open looks. Malcolm Brogdon carried the Pacers through the opening minutes, hitting a couple of threes before the first timeout was called with the Hornets up 14-13 halfway through the opening frame.
Cody Zeller got off to a great start on both ends, and he was subbed out by PJ Washington (who was already subbed out by Miles Bridges), which could mean that James Borrego has removed Bismack Biyombo from the nightly rotation in favor of a Zeller/Washington frontcourt. Rozier hit three of his first four shots and finished a nice 3⁄4 court pass from LaMelo Ball to give himself eight quick points before he hit the bench.
Malik Monk was the third player off the bench tonight, and he made his presence felt as a floor-spacer and playmaker. Domantas Sabonis had to sit with two first quarter fouls, though the Hornets were not able to capitalize and put him in further foul trouble in the second.
After one, the Hornets led 32-28. LaMelo scored the last five points of the quarter on an and-one and a dunk in transition, cementing himself as the best end-of-quarter player in NBA history. The Graham/Monk/Ball/Bridges/Washington lineup to end the first brought a ton of energy and was really fun to watch.
Hayward came in for Bridges to begin the second, and Charlotte still played great. The ball was moving, shots were falling, and everyone was staying engaged on defense. With 6:13 left in the half, the Hornets led 48-41.
Zeller got into foul trouble mid-way though the second, which forced Borrego to put Biz in the game, despite being visibly upset about having to do so. Thankfully, the Hornets were still lights-out from deep and the bench was bringing the energy:
The Hornets had a sizable lead for most of the second, but a 10-2 run from Indiana to end the half cut the Hornets lead down to four. At the break, it was 64-60 Hornets, with Terry’s 14 points on 4-5 from deep leading all scorers. Washington had 10 points, five rebounds, two steals and a block.
Borrego has talked about “consistency” in his press conferences lately, and the Hornets seemed to have gotten the message tonight. They started the third exactly where they left off; moving the ball, hitting open looks and playing energetic defense. Zeller picked up his fourth foul, but Borrego (who is 4-0 on coach’s challenges this season) took exception to McDermott barreling through Zeller and the officials reversed the call after the review.
Charlotte did a better job rotating throughout this game, and it also helped that Indiana wasn’t burying every open shot. Brogdon never let them fall too far behind, though, with a three forcing Borrego into a timeout with the Hornets up 77-70 with 4:44 left in the third.
Soon after, LaMelo forced Sabonis into an early retirement:
Also, that tweet gets a full endorsement from me. LaMelo is absolutely an All-Star in the year 2021.
The Hornets took an 89-80 lead into the final quarter. Washington scored eight points in the third, giving him 18 and nine rebounds. LaMelo had 14, five boards and five assists.
The fourth quarter began with the Pacers ball-pressuring Monk well beyond the 3-point line, which begs the question; does he have legit shooting gravity?!? That would be a legitimately remarkable development.
After three of the best quarters of the season, the Hornets got sloppy and allowed the Pacers to make it a one-possession game, 92-89, by the 8:31 mark. Fatigue could’ve been part of the issue, since Zeller just came back from an injury and the other four starters were at or near the 30-minute mark when crunch time rolled around.
Speaking of crunch time, tonight’s game had a fun ending. First, a Myles Turner layup gave the Pacers a 100-98 lead with 3:06 remaining. Graham then found Zeller for two straight layups on beautiful feeds, but Jeremy Lamb hit a three to put Indiana back on top with 1:31 to go, 103-100. Rozier and Graham canned back-to-back threes to give Charlotte a 108-103 lead before a Brogdon layup cut it to 108-105 in the final minute. Nobody scored after that, and the Hornets picked up the win with a final score of 108-105.
Washington and Rozier each scored 19 points to lead the Hornets; Washington added nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block while Rozier hit 4-5 from beyond the arc and nabbed five rebounds. LaMelo put up 16 points, seven assists and six rebounds off the bench, and Graham posted a 14-point 10-assist double-double. Charlotte shot 43.2 percent from long-range as a team, and the second unit chipped in with 33 points.
Sabonis, Brogdon, and Turner scored 22, 21, and 20 points, respectively. Indiana shot 31.4 percent from 3-point land tonight, opposed to 40 percent on Wednesday. A game can look a lot different if a team just misses a few open shots.
Tonight’s quick-hitters; LaMelo is going to be an All-NBA point guard until he retires at the age of 56; Monk should be back in the rotation until he deserves not to be, his energy is excellent and he’s prepared every time he gets put in; this team is night and day with Zeller playing big minutes instead of Biz; PJ looked really good on defense tonight, him and Miles were both active on the glass; Devonte’ goes 5-14 from the floor but still ends with a double-double at +12 for the game, that dude just knows how to play, and win, basketball games; the Hornets got it done while Hayward had an off-night, a great sign for the rest of the season, hopefully this is a confidence-boosting win.