Apart from a single free throw made by Cody Zeller, it took nearly two minutes for the Hornets to put the ball in the bucket. Both the Kings and Hornets played bad defense to start the quarter, but the Kings picked it up a bit to their credit, and the Hornets continued letting them get whatever they wanted at the rim in the first quarter.
Sacramento scored 26 of their 37 points in the paint and the Hornets let them shoot 66 percent from the field overall. Thankfully, Terry Rozier started out hot scoring 11 quick points on 4-5 FG and the offense picked up towards the end of the frame, making it a 37-32 Kings lead heading into the second.
Miles Bridges and Cody Martin were the most impactful players on the floor for the first five minutes of the second quarter. Bridges finished a nice dunk and layup, and he and Martin provided a jolt of energy on the defensive end that the Hornets really needed.
The Hornets’ defense improved as the first half went along, but the Kings still went into the break shooting 58.7 percent from the field with 40 points in the paint.
Gordon Hayward and PJ Washington each had nice halves offensively; Hayward scored 16 points on 6-9 shooting, finding his spots with ease, and Washington was seeing the floor well (four assists) and attacking the rim. The Kings took a 67-61 lead into halftime.
LaMelo Ball and De’Aaron Fox opened the second half with a strong take to the rim for each of their respective teams. On one of Fox’s drives, Washington picked up his fourth foul and Borrego turned to Bridges early in the third. The Kings started the quarter with four straight layups, “much to the chagrin of James Borrego” in the words of the legend Eric Collins.
Checkout this extension from LaMelo over Holmes at the rim. So impressive. pic.twitter.com/A00Rh6h3lA— Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer) March 16, 2021
The Kings went on a run that stretched their lead to as much as 15 points, but the Hornets picked up their offense and a Devonte’ Graham triple forced Luke Walton into a timeout with 5:03 to go and Sacramento leading 86-78.
Martin provided a spark again, this time to end the third. He and Monk came in and it was 91-80 Kings with just over two minutes remaining, and the Hornets had cut it to 96-91 by the end of the quarter. Graham hit a trio of triples in the quarter to help stabilize the offense.
Man, what a fourth quarter that was. The 4th Quarter Hornets (we as a fanbase need to establish that as a nickname) showed up in full force tonight, with Monk slamming home a few easy dunks in the first few minutes. It took them until there were about five minutes left before they could string together a big enough run to threaten the Kings’ lead, but some clutch buckets from Hayward and Graham tied the game at 110 with three minutes to go.
Soon after, Hayward baptized De’Aaron Fox, and off of a great defensive read for the steal nonetheless (with a fantastic call from Eric Collins, as always):
At that moment, the game turned entirely in favor of the Hornets. Rozier drained yet another clutch triple on the ensuing possession off of a nice pass from Hayward, and a combination of defensive stops and poor late-game execution from Sacramento allowed the Hornets to escape with the win, 122-116.
Rozier led the team with 26 points, four rebounds and three assists on a perfect 8-8 from the foul line. Hayward put up 25, eight boards, four dimes and four steals including some seriously clutch shots. Ball had 16, four rebounds and four assists in a quiet 25 minutes. Graham finished with 12 points, four assists, and four crucial 3-pointers in the second half.
Fox dropped 29 and eight assists for the Kings. Buddy Hield had 23 and six rebounds, but made a couple of questionable decisions in crunch time.
Tonight’s takeaways; the zone has steadily decreased in usage, and the first three quarters show why it’s necessary; Cody Martin is 100 percent back to being the superior Martin twin; Devonte’ is back to himself, his defense was good tonight; it’s funny that 16/4/4 with no turnovers is an “off night” for LaMelo; PJ has five assists, he was attacking/passing/operating with the ball in his hands well; Hayward and Rozier are worth every single penny, so clutch; THIS TEAM IS FUN AS HELL, ENJOY THE RIDE.