The Hornets rolled out a small lineup to start the game featuring Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward, and Cody Zeller. The group had a great deal of success as the Hornets eventually jumped out to a 24-12 lead. It started with a nifty little dime from Ball to Zeller on the interior. Gordon Hayward scored quick 11 against his former team while Devonte’ Graham splashed a couple of triples. The Jazz bench unit got them back into the game and pulled the Jazz within two by quarter’s end.
The Jazz kept pouring it on in the second quarter and outscored the Hornets 16-3 in its first four minutes. The only three points the Hornets scored during that run came from a Graham 3-pointer, but he left about a minute later with a groin strain. A James Borrego timeout and five super quick points from Terry Rozier got the Hornets back on the right track. After splashing a three from the corner, Rozier stole the inbounds pass for an easy layup. The Hornet briefly pulled within three points of the Jazz, but the Jazz knocked down five 3-pointers over the next three-and-a-half minutes to pull back ahead by as many as 18. Ball scored nine straight points for the Hornets during that stretch, but he alone couldn’t keep up with the Jazz. At the half, the Hornets trailed by 15.
As the third quarter rolled on, it was clear the Hornets were simply outmatched. Donovan Mitchell did most of the damage for the Jazz and was matched shot for shot by Gordon Hayward. The problem was that the Hornets supporting cast couldn’t keep up with the Jazz supporting cast making all of the 3-pointers. The Jazz lead grew as large as 24 at a couple points during the quarter, but the Hornets got a nice little mini-run to cut the deficit to 16 heading into the fourth quarter.
LaMelo Ball found Bismack Biyombo for a couple interior buckets and then scored nine straight points, then found Biz for another dunk. That run of play was good enough for the Hornets to get within single digits, but Donovan Mitchell and Bojan Bogdanovic were able to keep the Hornets at bay with several buckets of their own. The Hornets comeback attempt eventually ran out of gas, but it was still a joy to watch Ball dominate the fourth quarter. The Hornets scored 31 points in the quarter, and he scored or assisted 24 of those.
These takeovers from LaMelo Ball are starting to become more frequent, and that’s extremely exciting from a Hornets fan perspective. He was able to get into the paint at will, and the Jazz had no answer for his array of finishing moves and interior passes.
Gordon Hayward had 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists against his old team. Bismack Biyombo put in some good minutes off the bench and was one the main beneficiaries of Ball’s wondrous offensive performance.
The Jazz might be the best team in the league right now, so there’s no shame in losing to them. The Hornets have now played the top teams in each conference in back to back games. They’ll try to avoid a letdown against a team on the opposite end of the standings. They’ll take on the Wizards in a Sunday afternoon matinee.