The Hornets had to withstand an offensive onslaught from Aaron Gordon in the first quarter. He scored 17 points that came almost exclusively in the paint. The Hornets played with poor focus and turned the ball over a handful of times and all had to withstand an unfortunate run of officiating decisions. It resulted in a deficit as large as nine at a couple of points. The Hornets used free throws to close the gap down to four by quarter’s end.
The Hornets continued to feast on the Nuggets bench unit to start the second quarter. They scored the first seven points of the quarter before Jokic checked back in and found Austin Rivers in the corner for three. The script flipped from there. The Hornets let the Nuggets get out and run after just about every defensive rebound and turnover. Their offense also sputtered a bit, and their once mild lead turned into a deficit of equal magnitude. They closed the second quarter with a flurry though, scoring six straight points in the final 38 seconds to take a one point lead into the break.
Both teams came out of the halftime break and scored at will. The game got a little ragged on the Hornets side of things as they had a couple of sloppy offensive possessions and lost focus on the defensive end. James Borrego took a timeout to stop the bleeding, but it didn’t do much to help. The Nuggets run continued out to 12 straight points. There was brief kerfuffle between Aaron Gordon and Montrezl Harrell that generated a very long review that resulted in two technical fouls being assessed to Harrell and his ejection from the game. A LaMelo Ball 3-pointer finally broke the cold spell, but the Nuggets hit a couple of 3-pointers of their own to answer. Another Bones Hyland three and some more swallowed whistles on the Hornets offensive end led to a nine point Nuggets lead heading into the fourth.
The Nuggets scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to take a commanding 13 point lead, but the Hornets came back with four straight of their own to force a Nuggets timeout. The Nuggets held their comfortable lead for a large stretch of the fourth quarter, but Miles Bridges sensed the urgency of the situation and took the game over. He battled DeMarcus Cousins for a couple of rebounds and scored five points in quick succession, including a 3-pointer to pull the Hornets within three.
The Hornets caught a massive break as the officials blew the whistle to call a kickball on the Hornets to stop a fast break, but they immediately changed their mind and called it an inadvertent whistle. The Hornets won the tap, and Ball splashed a triple to pull the Hornets within one. It felt like that was gonna push the Hornets over the top, but they drew front iron on their next four shot attempts as the Nuggets went back up by five. Ball stole a pass at midcourt to get the Hornets back on the board and pull the Hornets back within three. The Hornets defended like mad on the ensuing possession, but Monte Morris was gifted some soft free throws to restore the Nuggets lead.
Terry Rozier answered with a fast, heavily contested three to pull the Hornets back within two with 32.1 seconds to play. The Hornets got the stop they needed on defense, but they couldn’t secure the rebound. Jokic calmly knocked down the free throws to put the game out of reach.
The Hornets continue to struggle on the second nights of back to backs, seemingly more due to waning focus rather than tired legs. They struggled to resist the Nuggets in the early parts of the game and the offense devolved into very non-Hornets isolations at different points throughout the night. Still, they gave themselves a chance to win it late despite their poor play and several oddities throughout the game.
Ball continues to shine when the lights are brightest and Bridges showed the ability to take over when the Hornets were faltering. Kelly Oubre and Isaiah Thomas played well off the bench.
The Hornets will have a day off before heading back up to New York to take on the Knicks.