The Charlotte Hornets mounted a furious rally to overcome a couple of terrible quarters, but it was undone by some unlucky breaks in the final few seconds as they lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 102-101.
The Hornets predictably struggled to contain Jarrett Allen early on. The Cavs big scored the team’s first nine points and single handedly outrebounded the Hornets in the first quarter. The Hornets struggled to finish over the Cavs length on the interior, but they got a few easy looks in transition as they took the early lead. The Hornets went on a little spurt after a timeout near the four minute mark with PJ Washington doing an excellent job of containing Allen in their couple minutes on the floor together. After one, the Hornets led by nine.
The teams traded a couple of buckets then a lot of misses to start the second quarter. There was a scare for the Cavs as Jarrett Allen and Gordon Hayward banged knees in an unusual offensive foul call on Hayward. The cushion that the Hornets had built up in the first quarter came in handy here, as the Hornets missed ten straight shots (with a couple of turnovers sprinkled in). LaMelo Ball bookended that cold streak with 3-pointers on either side. After several more misses, the game suddenly turned into a 3-point-fest to help the game approach what looked like a normal score. The Cavs won the shootout and used a 30-15 second quarter to take a 52-46 lead into the half.
The Hornets started the second half by letting the Cavs get several super easy looks at the basket while missing their own easy looks at the rim on the other end. A brief Hornets pushed was countered by another falling apart that saw the Cavs pull ahead by 14 just over halfway through the quarter. The Hornets could not get into an offensive rhythm and scored fewer than 20 points for the second quarter in a row. They trailed by 11 heading into the fourth.
LaMelo Ball fouled Kevin Love shooting a three on the Cavs first possession and then charged into Love on the Hornets ensuing possession to pick up his fifth foul less than a minute into the fourth. The Cavs lead by as many as 17, but a few 3-pointers by the Hornets helped the Hornets cut the deficit down to a manageable margin. The Hornets run was benefited by some unusual officiating. Ed Davis interfered with a Terry Rozier 3-point attempt that seemingly happened after a whistle had blown the play dead, but the official ruled that the 3-point attempt counted, and the Hornets got a technical free throw attempt on top of that.
A Jarrett Allen 3-point play put the Cavs up six with two minutes to play. The Hornets hit three straight 3-pointers to turn it into a three point lead. Allen made a tip-in, and the Hornets couldn’t answer and Gordon Hayward was essentially tackled trying to get the rebound with no whistle. On the other end, the Cavs missed a potential game winner, but Kevin Love had his arm grabbed in a mob of like seven players trying to grab the rebound. He was given a shooting foul for some reason and went to the line for two free throws, of which he made both. The Hornets tried a lob play to Bridges on the other end, but he couldn’t overcome some contact from Jarrett Allen and the ball bounced harmlessly away.
Questionable fourth quarter officiating aside, the Hornets needed to play better. They scored 34 points in the middle two quarters of the game and were outright bullied by the Cavs. They were hesitant to attempt shots around the basket and lived and died by jump shots. Defensively, they were sluggish to rotate on the perimeter and their inability to body up Cavs drivers and rebounders was a big reason for Jarrett Allen’s huge performance.
It’s a frustrating loss for an ailing Hornets team. They’ll try to get back on track against the Heat on Saturday.