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Recap: Fouls, early turnovers drag down Hornets in loss to Pelicans, 124-112

A couple of late runs made it interesting, but New Orleans was in control for most of the night.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets opened up the Spectrum Center with a loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, 124-112 despite receiving 20-plus points from both Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier for the second-straight game.

Hayward finished with 26 points, two rebounds and seven assists on a steady diet of two-point jumpers and rim finishes. Rozier approached a triple-double with 23 points, eight rebounds and a career-high tying 11 assists. Kelly Oubre Jr. had 15 points, four rebounds, two steals and hit a pair of three-pointers. Jalen McDaniels logged 14 points, five rebounds and two assists while shooting 4-4 from deep to tie a career-high in single-game three-point makes. Dennis Smith Jr. and PJ Washington each posted 10 points and Mason Plumlee had eight points, five rebounds and four assists.

Jonas Valančiūnas put up 30 points (13-14 FT) and 17 rebounds to lead the game in both categories. Brandon Ingram registered 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists while going 11-11 from the line. CJ McCollum notched 21 points and six rebounds while Zion Williamson added 16 points and five rebounds in his first-ever appearance at the Spectrum Center.

McCollum was clearly distracted by the buzzing atmosphere in the first game of the season at the Hive, as he picked up two quick fouls as the Pelicans got out to an early 6-5 lead. Trey Murphy III was hooping in the early-going, exemplifying the reliable creation on top of spot-up shooting and defense that will help expand his role. The Hornets turned it over six times in the first quarter and didn’t have the most fluid offense but did hit four triples that helped keep them alive, trailing 35-24 after one.

The threes kept falling for Charlotte and eventually, the rest of the offense got up to speed. Point Plumlee dished to Hayward to finish off a 2-on-1 ‘break to cut the deficit to eight before Oubre went full Oubre. He forced an over-and-back that garnered an emphatic reaction in the midst of hitting a couple of tough mid-range jumpers, all while trash-talking the Pelicans bench and bringing the Hornets within two possessions. New Orleans would draw the lead back out to double digits with the help of Williamson’s unstoppable finishing and passing in the paint. The deficit grew as high as 15, but the Hornets cut it down quickly and went into halftime down 61-51.

Williamson continued to assert himself early in the third, getting to the basket at will against any defender that stood in his way. Valančiūnas had already totaled a double-double within the opening minutes of the second half as the Pelicans maintained a double-digit lead. Charlotte kept themselves afloat by shooting efficiently from deep (13-34, 38.2 percent) and cutting down significantly on turnovers after the first — they finished with 13 after racking up six in the opening frame. Point Plum sparked another short run to make it 80-71 in favor of the Pels while Hayward led the way offensively, creating shots for his teammates and getting to his spots in the mid-range with ease. Smith Jr.’s triple and layup made it a six-point game before New Orleans stretched it to eight, 93-85 as the third came to a close.

Relentless perimeter defense, sharp rotation and an attack mentality offensively highlighted by a transition slam from Rozier made it a two-point game with 7:21 to go; the Hornets took advantage of the Pelicans’ mistakes in the same way the Pelicans did when the Hornets were playing sloppy early in the game, compounded by a 1-11 shooting slump for New Orleans in the fourth. Herb Jones and Valančiūnas wasted no time getting the lead back out to seven points, and Rozier came down on Ingram’s foot and badly turned an ankle a few plays later. He was clearly in a lot of pain, but he walked it off and came back in because he’s tough as nails. The two teams mostly traded buckets down the stretch, and the Hornets home opener finished in a loss, 124-112.

Instead of long-winded thoughts after each game, I’m gonna try and make the recaps more fun with a couple recurring segments (are they still called that when writing and not podcasting? Anyway.). We’ll start with Stats of the Game and the One Sentence Story of the Night, and as my creative juices continue to flow/I receive suggestions, I’ll add more. Hope you all enjoy!

Stats of the Game:

One Sentence Story of the Night:

The Hornets fouled a ton and the Pelicans lived at the line; multiple runs in the second half were slowed or halted entirely by a bad foul that led to free throws or extra possessions, and the slow first quarter start put them in a hole.

Back at it again on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.