LaMelo Ball had 27 points and seven 3-pointers made, but the Charlotte Hornets continued to struggle defensively and lost their seventh game in a row to the Atlanta Haws, 125-106.
A Mason Plumlee spin move and dunk opened the scoring as the Hornets opened a modest early lead. Hot shooting and eight early points from Bogdan Bogdanovic quickly countered that start. After making two of their first three shots, the Hornets missed 10 of their next 12 before Kelly Oubre finally broke the seal with a corner three. At that point, the Hornets found themselves in an 11 point hole. The Hawks had no such offensive struggles as they made seven straight shots, including two from Frank Kaminsky in his return to Charlotte. The Hornets gave up 38 points in the first quarter and trailed by 14 at the end of it.
The Hawks started the second quarter with a 12-5 run to push the lead over 20 points and force a Hornets timeout. That margin persisted despite LaMelo Ball getting rolling from three. The Hornets provided little resistance defensively, and it felt like the Hawks were getting the types of looks they’d draw up in practice. An 11-2 run thanks to 3-pointers from Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre, and Ball (from about 30 feet) helped cut into the lead, but it’s hard to keep the game close when you give up 75 points in a half. The Hawks shot 63% from the field and 50% in the first half and led by 16 at the break.
The Hornets forced turnovers on three of the first four Hawks possessions of the second half. The one possession in which the Hawks got up a shot, De’Andre Hunter’s attempt went clear over the backboard. The Hornets scored eight points off the turnovers, including a 4-point play from LaMelo Ball, and forced a Hawks timeout with their lead down to single digits. The Hornets scored the first 13 points of the quarter before the Hawks finally got on the board. The Hawks steadied the ship and restored a big chunk of their lead after the Hornets offense struggled to stay on track when Ball went to the bench for a breather. Trae Young did most of the damage from the free throw line thanks to a lot of his trademark cheap foul-drawing. The Hornets gave it another run late though with mostly the bench in the game, and pulled within six by quarter’s end.
The Hornets couldn’t keep the run going into the fourth, and the Hawks built on their lead. It was a 15-1 run for the the Hawks after the Hornets scored the first two points of the quarter. Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of nine points and functioned as the Hawks star with Trae Young getting a rest to start the fourth quarter. The Hornets didn’t have another run in them and only scored eight points in eight minutes and 13 seconds to start the fourth quarter before emptying the benches for garbage time.
The Hornets did not respond to Steve Clifford’s pleas for defense outside of the third quarter. The Hawks met little resistance when handling the ball and the Hornets frequently lost track of players off the ball. Then, as has been the case for much of the season, a catastrophic cold spell ruined any chances to overcome the lackluster defense.
LaMelo Ball with his 27 points and seven made threes and Nick Richards with his 13 point, 11 rebound double double were the only real bright spots for the Hornets. Jalen McDaniels had some good moments defensively, but his play time was limited by foul trouble.
Unfortunately it doesn’t get any easier. The Hornets will now hit the road for a six game west coast road trip that features five teams currently in the playoff picture. That starts on Sunday against the Denver Nuggets.