The Hornets have made it a point all season to start games better, and they did that tonight. They jumped out to a 20-9 lead thanks to some good shooting and very strong defense. The good times weren’t sustainable though. The Nuggets came all the way back and pretty much evened up the score by the end of the quarter.
Things fell apart for the Hornets in the second quarter. The Nuggets hit seven 3-pointers and scored 39 points. It looked like the game was going to get away from the Hornets once again. There was a span of about 12 minutes total where the Hornets were outscored 43-20. The Hornets stopped the bleeding late in the half and went into the break down by 13.
The third quarter got hairy as well. The Hornets fell behind by as many as 19 at couple of different points in the third. They didn’t let the deficit balloon out of control though, which kept the game within reach for what was to come in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets came roaring back to start the fourth quarter, led in large part by Kelly Oubre and Ish Smith. On the broadcast, Dell Curry mentioned the importance of a Hornets possession as they controlled the ball with a 14 point deficit. Just a few seconds later, Oubre converted a 4-point play to ignite a Hornets run. They started the quarter on a 22-5 run that ended with a 3-pointer from PJ Washington to tie the game. The Hornets victimized Jokic during the run as well Jalen McDaniels dunking on his head and Terry Rozier sending him the wrong way on a step-back three.
PJ stayed on hot and hit two more threes from the same spot as the first, each one giving the Hornets the lead back. The gravity of those made threes helped the Hornets on subsequent possessions. He drew a hard closeout, which opened a driving angle for Washington, who found McDaniels wide open in the dunker spot. The next Hornets possession, PJ drew help from a Nuggets defender, so he found Ish Smith wide open in the corner, who took a rhythm dribble and knocked down the dagger. On all the possessions in between, the Nuggets tried to run their offense through Jokic, but PJ had him completely locked down.
Smith, Oubre, and Washington deserve tons of credit for the win tonight. Ish provided a spark to a Hornets team that looked like it might be out of gas. Oubre provided the scoring punch. Washington did a whole lot of everything. He was a nightmare for Jokic defensively, he hit huge 3-pointers, and he found open teammates when the Nuggets started closing out heavy on him. Jalen McDaniels also provided strong minutes and several dunks all throughout the game.
Even though the bench took all the shine at the end of the game, the starters didn’t necessarily play poorly. The bench just played so well in the fourth quarter that they never gave James Borrego a chance to take anyone out.
With that, the Hornets finish up their second Western Conference road trip of the young-ish season. They get three days off over Christmas before hosting the Rockets on Monday.