The Hornets forgot to bring their bring the defense with them to start the game. They repeatedly left Buddy Hield open for three and dug themselves into an early 14 point hole. By the end of the first quarter, Hield had scored 17 of the Kings’ 39 points in the first period. The Hornets were kept afloat by LaMelo Ball, who you could tell took it upon himself to force the issue when the Hornets offense sputtered. The Hornets ended the quarter with 36 points and just a three point deficit.
PJ Washington really started to assert himself in the second quarter. After a strong eight point first quarter, he scored 14 in the second on 6-of-8 shooting. The two teams went back and forth all quarter long, ending in a one point Kings lead heading into the half.
The teams continued alternating baskets through much of the third quarter before the Hornets cold outside shooting caught up with them. The Hornets didn’t make a single 3-pointer in the quarter as the Kings built up a modest eight point lead by quarter’s end. PJ Washington kept on adding to his total, surpassing his previous career high of 27 with 30 points through three quarters.
The Hornets started the fourth quarter with some buddy ball between Bridges and Ball that resulted in a Bridges three. The next several minutes were all about Nemanja Bjelica. He was essentially responsible for just about every point both teams scored for about three or four minutes. The Hornets, and LaMelo Ball in particular, went at Bjelica defensively got a bunch of easy looks out of it. The Hornets couldn’t get enough stops on the defensive end to really take advantage of their offensive outburst and never caught the Kings. The offense eventually dried up as the Hornets looked to run out of gas down the stretch.
Harrison Barnes drove down the lane almost uncontested for a dunk to put the Kings up eight with 1:13 to go. After a Hornets turnover on the ensuing inbound, LaMelo Ball was called for a flagrant foul trying to block De’Aaron Fox’s game clinching dunk. The game looked done, so much so that Eric Collins opined that it may be time to pull out the Hornets main rotation pieces. He did not know what was about to happen.
Fox missed both free throws, then Ball blocked Marvin Bagley’ floater. Terry Rozier made a three, then the Kings missed more free throws before fouling Rozier on another 3-point attempt. A Fox floater was answered by a PJ Washington 3-pointer off the dribble with a defender all over him to pull the Hornets within one. Buddy Hield missed yet another free throw before finally making the second. Prior to that make, the Kings had missed six straight free throws, which opened the door for this:
Monk canned the free throw and Buddy Hield’s half court attempt was just wide, and that was that.
LaMelo Ball added to his rookie-leading double double count with a 24 points, 12 assist performance on just 12 shots. Malik Monk’s game winner put him over 20 for the fourth straight game, as he finished with 21 points on the night.
The Hornets will take their lucky rabbit’s foot up to Portland to face the Trail Blazers on Monday night.