It looked like a game between two depleted teams early on. The Hornets did a good job capitalizing on some bad Lakers basketball and jumped out to a modest early lead. Neither team could hit from the outside until the Lakers hit back to back triples on the game’s 12th and 13th 3-point attempt of the game. In the meantime, we got a little dunk party from the Martin twins, with Caleb offering up his own entry for dunk of the year.
The Lakers eventually found a little bit of an offensive flow, and the Hornets suffered from a lack of transition opportunities. They trailed 25-22 after one.
Jalen McDaniels finally hit the Hornets first three of the game about a minute into the second quarter to briefly give the Hornets the lead and kick off a 15-3 run to start the quarter, which was ended by Talen Horton-Tucker unintentionally banking in a three. The Hornets ratcheted up the defensive intensity and made a concerted effort to get out and run, and they got a lot of easy offense because of it. They led for most of the quarter until Kyle Kuzma hit a couple threes and threw down a huge dunk to give the Lakers a two point lead at the half.
The Hornets had an incredibly difficulttime generating offense in the third quarter. Ball handlers were frequently picking up their dribble without a plan, and it seemed like almost every possession ended with the shot clock nearing its expiration. The Hornets committed three shot clock violations in the quarter and only mustered 16 points. I can't confirm, but it seemed like they had as many offensive fouls as field goals on the period.
The Hornets pulled closer with a mini flurry of buckets from Graham and Caleb Martin. But really it was because of Nate Darling, who got his first meaningful NBA minutes. Unfortunately as had been the case for most of the night, the Hornets couldn't sustain that offense. They went nearly three minutes without a point before Darling hit three flagrant free throws. In total, the Hornets went just over five minutes between field goals. They threatened with some late threes from Miles Bridges and Graham, but an Alex Caruso three with 45 seconds left proved to be the dagger.
Nights like tonight are probably going to be the norm as long as they are this shorthanded. There just aren't enough playmakers to create offense consistently for 48 minutes.
The Hornets will try to get back on track tomorrow against the Cavs.