Gordon Hayward scored 26 points, Miles Bridges scored 20, and LaMelo Ball came one assist shy of a triple double as the Charlotte Hornets rallied from a 19-point first half deficit to take down the New Orleans Pelicans, 118-110.
Devonte’ Graham opened the scoring for the Hornets with a welcome 3-pointer. Unfortunately that was the only good thing about the start the game, as the Hornets clanged their other 3-point attempts and fell behind by double figures within the first half of the first quarter. It chapped James Borrego enough to compel him to call two timeouts before we’d normally get our first TV timeout. LaMelo Ball checked in and helped kickstart the Hornets offense a bit with three quick dimes. The defense did not pick up, meanwhile. The Pelicans, who came into the game as the worst 3-point shooting team in the league, hit seven out ten 3-pointers en route to a 38 point first quarter. After one, the Hornets trailed by 16.
The Pelicans started missing shots in the second quarter, while the Hornets kept missing shots. It leveled off as the quarter went along, with both teams committing sloppy turnovers and scoring at a mediocre rate. But you know what isn’t mediocre? This dunk from Miles Bridges, his third of the half.
By halftime, the Hornets had cut their deficit to 12.
The Hornets opened the second half with an 3-pointer from Rozier and a short Hayward jumper off a steal. They kept forcing turnovers and actually made some shots to help whittle away their deficit to as little as three. The Hornets hit nine 3-pointers in the quarter, the last of which was a stepback by LaMelo Ball in the final seconds to cut the margin to 87-82.
The Pelicans hit 3-pointers on each of their first three possessions, and the Hornets were only able to answer with a 2-point bucket from each Martin twin and a pair of free throws from Devonte’ Graham. After the Pelicans cooled off, the Hornets pulled the game back closer. They did most of this playing small ball, with only Zion Williamson’s sheer size causing problems. The Hornets eventually took the lead on a Devonte’ Graham and-1 and added to it with 3-pointers from Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges. The Pelicans tried the ol’ hack-a-Biz strategy, but he canned both free throws, and the Pelicans quickly abandoned the plan. A Hayward jumper gave the Hornets their largest lead of nine with 1:50 to play. Even though the offense sputtered a bit down the stretch, the margin was too much for the Pelicans to overcome.
Whatever James Borrego told his team at halftime really got the juices flowing. The defensive intensity was much better, and the shots started going in (which probably isn’t so much to do with JB). The Pelicans played sloppy basketball, but that was due at least in part to an active Hornets defense that gave them difficult reads and kept the pressure on them.
LaMelo Ball missed out on being the youngest player in NBA history with a triple double by just one assist, and he seemed keenly aware of that. He threw an ill-advised grenade to Miles Bridges late in the shot clock with just over 30 seconds to play in a move that will surely earn him a talking to from his coaches and teammates.
The Hornets registered 33 assists on 41 made field goals, building on their league leading assist percentage.
The Hornets will look to make it three in a row tomorrow night in a rematch against the Atlanta Hawks, this time in Charlotte.