Kelly Oubre, Terry Rozier, and PJ Washington combined to score 90 points and the Charlotte Hornets overcame a nine point deficit in the final 45 seconds to force overtime, but they ran out of gas in the second overtime and lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 132-122.
The Hornets took a few possessions to adjust to the Cavaliers length, but a pair of Mason Plumlee free throws and PJ Washington jumpers got the Hornets in the scoresheet. The Hornets were able to stop a 9-0 Cavaliers run with a drawn up play for Gordon Hayward’s first bucket since injuring his shoulder, but it didn’t do much to stop the bleeding. The Cavs finally missed their first shot at the five minute mark of the first quarter, but the Hornets couldn’t secure the rebound and the Cavs scored anyway. The Hornets finally secured their first defensive rebound with 3:55 left in the first quarter and a double digit lead to overcome. They found themselves in a 14 point hole after shooting 2-of-11 from three and 25% from three.
The Hornets played much better to start the second quarter. Nick Richards got a trio of dunks and this big block that led to a Terry Rozier three to pull the Hornets within six.
To match the Cavs size, Steve Clifford inserted Kai Jones into the lineup to play alongside with Richards and Plumlee for a spell. It didn’t take long for his athleticism to pop.
The Hornets threatened to make a game of it during parts of the second quarter, but they struggled to get consistent stops down the stretch and let the game get away from them again. At the half, the Hornets trailed 58-46.
The Hornets did the thing again to start the third quarter. A couple of motivated possessions saw them cut into the Cavs lead and force a timeout, but the Cavs immediately responded with six straight points to undo the work the Hornets did. The game went off the rails after that. Donovan Mitchell interfered with a Kelly Oubre dunk attempt but it wasn’t called. Oubre responded the next time down the floor with a three that had a 100% chance of going in, then a technical. Shortly after that, the Cavs got called four three fouls in six second, the last of which was before an inbound pass. JB Bickerstaff got t’ed up out of frustration, and all of that madness helped the Hornets get within five points. But again, the Hornets fell apart and watched their deficit balloon to double figures within two minutes. The Hornets kept their 12 point deficit heading into the fourth.
The Hornets scored four straight points to start the fourth, but true to form, the Cavs responded with eight straight of their own. The Hornets made one final push with a series of defensive stops and transition buckets. They pulled as close as three with a strong PJ Washington spinning drive after a successful challenge overturned a Terry Rozier foul into a Darius Garland offensive foul, but it was not to be. The Cavs responded with seven straight points in a minute-and-a-half to seemingly put the game out of reach.
But the game went off the rails again. The Hornets got a three-steal-three sequence that was heavily influenced by Terry Rozier to make the game interesting. A pair of Cavaliers free throw was answered by a PJ Washington three, then the Hornets stole the ball off the ensuing inbound. After a bunch of chaos, and missed shots, the teams had a jump ball on the Hornets offensive end of the floor with four seconds to go. Washington won the tip, and the Hornets called a timeout to draw up this play.
It was a nine point comeback for the Hornets in the final 44 seconds of regulation. The Hornets finally got over the hump and made the comeback count.
The overtime period was as good a five minutes of basketball as you’ll see. Both teams traded tough baskets and went shot for shot with one another. Rozier, Oubre, and Washington did the damage for the Hornets while Darius Garland carried the Cavaliers. It culminated in a Rozier three that put the Hornets up three with 22 seconds to play, but Garland came to the rescue again with 13 seconds to play. Rozier’s last second step back was just a bit short, and the game went to another overtime.
Oubre got a steal and dunk to start the overtime period, but the Hornets went ice cold after that. The Cavaliers back court duo didn’t have the same problem, as they combined to score or assist on seven of the Cavs nine points during a 9-0 run to finally put the nail in the Hornets’ coffin. The Hornets missed their final nine shot attempts of the contest while that happened.
It was a roller coaster of a game that will end up as one of the best game’s of the season from a neutral point of view. Unfortunately, it goes down as another loss for the Hornets.
Gordon Hayward had 13 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in his return from a shoulder injury and Nick Richards chipped in with 13 points and 14 rebounds off the bench to complement the Hornets trio of Rozier, Oubre, and Washington.
This game may have been the most striking example of the Hornets need to reevaluate their minutes distribution at the center position. Richards had three blocks with his double double and was +8 in regulation. Plumlee had two points and five rebounds and was -8 in his minutes before fouling out. There was a clear difference in the Hornets interior presence on both ends depending on who was manning the middle.
The Hornets will try to bounce back again on Sunday against the Wizards in Washington.