The first quarter was the LaMelo Ball assist show. He assisted on the Hornets first six baskets in a frenetic open to the game. Mason Plumlee got himself into early foul trouble, which opened the door for Nick Richards to check in and get to work. He scored seven straight at one point and reeled in a couple of trademark offensive rebounds. That one-two punch powered the Hornets to a 39 point first quarter, and they took a nine point lead into quarter number two.
Ball picked up his third foul early in the second quarter, which drastically reduced his play time. The Hornets offense struggled in his absence, and the Kings made a run to even up the game. The offense looked rushed instead of fast, and the defense struggled to keep up with the pace of the Kings not unlike we saw against the Nuggets on Sunday. Also like the Denver game—the opposing center chewed up the Hornets. Domantas Sabonis went at both Richards and Plumlee and finished the first half with 14 points, 16 rebounds, and five assists. The Hornets finished the half strong with a 12-2 run capped off by four straight from Theo Maledon and went into the break up by three.
Ball didn’t take long to get assist number eight on a fast break alley oop to Mason Plumlee early in the second half. The Hornets with their full complement of available players scored with the same efficiency that they started the game with. They played with good pace and noticeably better cohesion on offense. Seven straight points that included an off-the-dribble Mason Plumlee jumper gave the Hornets a twelve point lead and forced a Kings timeout.
Mason Plumlee's lefty J is "ABSOLUTE MONEY!" pic.twitter.com/l2b3QMYjPO— NBA (@NBA) December 20, 2022
LaMelo followed that up with an almost-as-impressive highlight a few possessions later.
The Kings answered by scoring on six straight possessions to retake the lead. We got one more third quarter highlight before the end of the third.
LaMelo Ball opened the fourth quarter with a three to give him his double double and followed that up with a second deep ball about a minute later. The teams went back and forth all quarter long. Ball poured in 16 points in the first eight minutes of the quarter and then found Mason Plumlee with a half court alley oop to put the Hornets up seven and force a Kings timeout.
De’Aaron Fox scored seven straight for the Kings to pull them within two. Gordon Hayward made a patented turnaround in the paint, then Ball forced Fox into a tough floater that went begging.
After a couple of Kelly Oubre free throws, Gordon Hayward threw away an inbound pass then Ball got called for his sixth foul swiping at a Fox layup attempt. Fox missed the second free throw, and the Kings tracked down the rebound and scored to make it a three point game with under 30 seconds to play. The Hornets were able to successfully get the ball inbounds, and Theo Maledon of all people iced the game at the free throw line.
Ball put in dominant performances to start and end the game. His passing buoyed the Hornets in the early going, and he was unstoppable as a scorer in the fourth quarter.
Kelly Oubre chipped in a relatively quiet 31 points and 10 rebounds while playing his usual disruptive defense. Nick Richards tallied another double double off the bench with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Gordon Hayward added an efficient 19 points on 12 shots.
The Hornets were without Terry Rozier, who missed the contest due to a hip contusion suffered during Sunday’s loss to the Nuggets.
The Hornets will try to keep the momentum going against the Clippers late Wednesday night.