The game started out as a back and forth affair. A couple 3-pointers from LaMelo Ball were matched by six early points by Kevin Durant. The Hornets offense got a little sloppy as the bench units filtered in with Kelly Oubre being the most notable offender, and the Nets capitalized with a run to close the quarter. The visitors didn’t make a field goal for the final 2:54 of the quarter until PJ Washington hit a tough three in the final seconds. The quarter ended with the Hornets down six.
The Hornets repeatedly fouled Kyrie Irving to start the second quarter, and the Nets star got his first home bucket of the season with a fortuitous bounce on a 3-point shot. The Hornets took to doubling Irving to try to keep him from getting going. Meanwhile, offensively, the Hornets hit another cold spell. They went almost four minutes without a field goal before Miles Bridges isolated on Kevin Durant and drove in for a floater. He sensed the Hornets need for a spark and took the game over, scoring 11 points over the remainder of the half starting with that floater. The Hornets outscored the Nets 18-9 during that spell and went into the break down by just four.
A hot start to the second half that included three LaMelo Ball 3-pointers put the Hornets on top. The Hornets sophomore went absolutely nuts in the quarter. He dribbled into deep bombs and hit a three while falling into the crowd deep in the corner. He finished with 18 points in the quarter while PJ Washington took on the main supporting role, especially early on. The Hornets led by as many as 10 in the quarter, but six straight from the Nets to close out the quarter set the margin at four heading into the fourth.
The Hornets stole five minutes to start the fourth quarter with a mostly bench unit against Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and company. They outscored the Nets 9-7 in that span and bought some rest for LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges. Isaiah Thomas made a couple of tough buckets in the fourth to spur the Hornets offense. Those tough makes kept an otherwise stagnant offense afloat. The Hornets struggled to move the ball effectively, and the Nets inched closer. Irving scored eight straight for the Nets to take the lead after starting the game 2-of-17 from the field. PJ Washington restored the Hornets lead with a driving layup against a closeout. Cody Martin bailed out a very bad Hornets possession with this nonsense:
He hit a corner three in more common fashion on the next possession to put the Hornets up five with 1:12 to play. Kevin Durant was forced into a tough jumper and Miles Bridges secured the rebound. Rozier and Bridges hit dagger threes on the Hornets ensuing possessions to put the game away.
The win puts the Hornets and Nets level on record at 39-36, but the Hornets own the season series two games to one, giving them the tie breaker. They now control their own destiny for the 8 seed and just need to tie the Nets at season’s end to keep the upper hand in the play-in tournament.
Miles Bridges had some struggles trying to get whistles throughout the night but still finished with 24 points and nine rebounds. PJ Washington chipped in 18 points and several very timely baskets.
The visitors did a tremendous job bottling up the Nets superstar tandem. Irving and Durant combined to shoot just 15-of-46 from the field and 4-of-20 from the 3-point line and were pressured into mostly heavily contested pull-up jumpers. The Nets’ role players did a lot of damage over the course of the game, but they were taken out of the equation down the stretch as Irving and Durant tried to win the game.
The Hornets have 24 hours to relish being in the 8 seed of the East before they have to play host to the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.