LaMelo Ball was limited to eight minutes with foul trouble, but Rozier stepped up in his place as the Shaker Heights, Oh. native carried the Charlotte Hornets past the Cleveland Cavaliers, 119-98.
Rozier led the Hornets with 29 points on 5-9 from downtown, adding seven rebounds and seven assists. Kelly Oubre Jr. finished with 19 points (5-11 3P), four rebounds and five assists. Miles Bridges put up 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Montrezl Harrell had 11 points and nine rebounds. PJ Washington turned in 12 points on 5-5 shooting. Isaiah Thomas registered 10 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in his Hornets debut.
Darius Garland paced the Cavaliers with 33 points and four assists. Jarrett Allen totaled 18 points and 11 rebounds. Lauri Markkanen scored 12 points along with five rebounds.
Garland dished to a rolling Allen for an and-one to open the scoring. Rozier buried a corner three to get the Hornets going and hit a pair of free throws following a Ball steal to give them their first lead, 7-5. The game went back-and-forth, with the Hornets generating open looks and getting out in transition to balance some spotty defense. Isaiah Thomas made his Hornets debut when Ball exited with three fouls. Charlotte led 38-31 after one thanks to 14 points (4-4 3P) from Oubre.
The Hornets were much better on the offensive end than the defensive end, a noted change from recent weeks. Cleveland put together a run to get within three, 42-39, powered by Garland and his relentless finishing and playmaking around the rim. JT Thor sparked a response with a block followed by a finish at the rim. Cody Martin’s corner three put the Hornets back up by double digits and they rolled to a 64-49 halftime lead. Charlotte shot 22-41 (53.7 percent) from the field, 9-16 from deep (56.3 percent) and 11-13 from the line (83.3 percent) in the first half and held Cleveland to 2-13 (16.7 percent) from downtown.
Washington got the second half started with a triple that barely touched the net; if this game marks a turnaround for the team’s shooters, things are going to get better quickly ‘round these parts. Bridges threw down another huge dunk to put the Hornets up 72-52 after an 8-3 run. Ball sat down with four fouls and over nine minutes left in the third. Martin’s second three stretched the lead to 82-58, the largest of the game. Harrell did work in the pick-and-roll and Thomas hit from distance for his first Hornets points before the third closed with Charlotte ahead 96-77.
Thomas and Oubre each knocked down threes to begin the fourth, but the Cavs countered with an 8-0 run that brought them within 13, 102-89. Bridges finished on back-to-back strong takes to keep Cleveland at bay. Oubre’s clutch rebounding and blocked shot helped the Hornets rebuild a 20-point lead with four minutes remaining, after which Cleveland waived the white flag and removed all starters from the game. The Hornets did the same soon after and coasted to a much-needed victory. Charlotte finished 43-85 (51.2 percent) from the floor, 17-38 (45.9 percent) from deep and 16-22 (77.7 percent) from the line while holding the Cavs to 10-31 (32.3 percent) from distance.
As always, tonight’s takeaways; PLEASE let this be the game that brings the shooting back; Melo can’t catch a break with fouls but also needs to work on being in control when he knows he’s in foul trouble, it’s a two-way battle; however, I did notice he cheers on the bench the whole time he sits; is Kelly back? He’s been good the last few games and had some meaningful plays late tonight; IT is so awesome, might fill the Ish Smith role better than Smith did if he can shoot efficiently; Terry loves to play in Ohio; gotta build off this game, it could be a great starting point for a late-season run.