Malik Monk scored a career high 36 points while making a career high nine 3-pointers as the Charlotte Hornets mounted a late charge and ultimately stole a win in overtime over the Miami Heat, 129-121.
The Hornets let the Heat get going early, as they canned their first four 3-point attempts and seven of their first ten shots overall. Malik Monk wiped away the double digit deficit that came out of that hot Heat start with nine straight points for the Hornets, all coming on 3-pointers. He added a fourth triple before the quarter was over to give him a game high 12 points to that point. The Hornets did a good job handling a Heat zone in the final few minutes of the quarter and were able to generate good looks against it. They slowed the Heat offense down and pulled within one point by quarter’s end.
Heat superstar Max Strus scored a couple buckets to start the second quarter to give himself 14 points before thankfully being removed from the game. Both offenses kind of sputtered as the quarter went along. The Hornets blew a couple of layups with PJ Washington being the worst offender. There were about five minutes in between Hornets baskets before Cody Zeller rebounded his owned missed bunny and laid it back in. The final segment of the quarter featured the renewal of the famed Malik Monk and Max Strus rivalry. Strus fired up 3-pointers on his first two touches upon reentry. One went in. Monk hit another pair of triples, giving him six for the half. The Hornets trailed by three at intermission.
The Hornets got a couple early 3-pointers from LaMelo Ball at the beginning of the second half. The teams played even basketball, but it wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing style of play. Points were coming at a normal rate, but it just didn’t look fluid for either side. The Hornets got another injury blow, this time with PJ Washington. He landed on a Heat player’s foot and left the game with a foot sprain. The injury resulted in the Hornets playing a super small lineup featuring Miles Bridges at the five and Gordon Hayward at the four, and they found success. That group outscored the Heat 13-5 over the final three-plus minutes of the third quarter and gave the Hornets a six point cushion heading into the final frame.
The Heat blitzed the Hornets out of the break and quickly took the lead back. The game fell back into the flow that had been present all game where the Heat nursed a single digit lead while the Hornets always stayed within striking distance. Malik Monk hit two more triples, giving him a career high eight for the ball game, at key points when the Hornets offense had gone stale. Jimmy Butler took over on the other end, and the Hornets had no answer. He scored eight straight for the Heat, and then a bending Hornets defense left Duncan Robinson open in the corner while attempting to contain the Heat’s superstar.
The Hornets trailed by double figures with three minutes to play, but they weren’t done. Devonte’ Graham hit a couple big 3-pointer and a couple of free throws to pull the Hornets within three. After a strong defensive possession where they forced Andre Iguodala into a 3-point attempt. The Hornets drew up a handoff play for Monk in the ensuing timeout, and he splashed his ninth 3-pointer of the game to tie it with 16 seconds to play. Jimmy Butler clanged a tough jumper at the buzzer and sent the game to overtime.
The Hornets straight up dominated the overtime period. LaMelo Ball drove the lane and found Cody Zeller with a nice dime to open the scoring. After a couple Gordon Hayward buckets, Devonte’ Graham splashed a deep step-back 3-pointer on Tyler Herro’s head to put the Hornets firmly in the driver’s seat. He hit another tough pull-up a couple possessions later to restore the Hornets eight point lead with 40 seconds to play. Ball and Monk tacked on some free throws to get the Hornets to their final tally.
Malik Monk stole the show in LaMelo Ball’s first start. His 36 points were scattered throughout the game and he gave the Hornets big buckets when they were desperately needed. It was his best game as a Hornet, and it’s safe to say he’s firmly entrenched in the rotation at this point.
Devonte’ Graham ended up with 24 points on the night and reprised his usual role as the Hornets late game specialist. Cody Zeller finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds and is still way better than anyone thinks he is. LaMelo Ball had some ups and downs in his first start, particularly early on, but he righted the ship as the game went on and was a big part of the Hornets dominating the overtime period.
The murderer’s row continues for the Hornets. Up next is a visit from the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.