LaMelo Ball scored 27 points in his return from covid while Miles Bridges tallied a career high 11 assists to go with his 14 points, but the Charlotte Hornets lost to the Portland Trail Blazers after a dreadful first half.
The first quarter did not go the Hornets’ way. The Blazers scored 41 points and hit 6-of-9 3-point attempts. Damian Lillard, who has struggled all year, scored 17 points in the frame and capped it off with a deep three in the final seconds. After one, the Hornets trailed by 17.
The hideous defense continued into the second quarter. James Borrego called his second timeout of the second quarter just 3:36 into the period. The Blazers already had 53 points and had made 19-of-30 field goals and 8-of-14 threes at that point. That ballooned all the way up to a 68-40 score by the 4:54 mark of the second, and the Blazers had made 13-of-20 3-pointers at that point. By halftime, the Hornets trailed 81-55. The Blazers made 16-of-25 3-pointers in the half, a number of which were heavily contested late in the half.
The Hornets scored five straight to start the second half and looked like they might make a push, but Damian Lillard punched back and took away what little ground they made up and then some. The Hornets made the game about as interesting as they could by hitting 3-pointers on three straight possessions to cut the deficit under 20. They got it as close as 15 before taking a 17 point deficit into the fourth.
The Hornets continued chipping into that lead with Ish Smith leading the charge, especially on the defensive end. LaMelo Ball eventually Ball eventually got back into the game and helped keep the momentum rolling. The Hornets never went on an explosive run, but they got stops and slowly chipped away at the lead. Ball had three straight strong drives to the basket to get the Hornets within single digits, and a Bridges steal and Oubre run out got the Hornets as close as six and gave Bridges his tenth assist of the game. Ben McLemore dashed the Hornets hopes with an almost running fading 3-pointer deep in the corner to put the game away.
The Hornets showed a lot of fight to even give themselves a chance late, but they need to play with that fight all game long. The Blazers were extraordinarily hot in the first half, but the Hornets have to do a better job of getting teams out of rhythm so they can’t get hot so easily.
Three players, Kelly Oubre, PJ Washington, and Cody Martin, scored at least 14 points off the bench. Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier barely played in the second half after struggling in the first.
Up next is possibly the toughest back to back anyone will play this season. First is the Suns on Sunday (heh), then the Jazz on Monday.