The Charlotte Hornets bounced back from a tough loss to hand the Orlando Magic a 27-point loss, winning 128-101 to ensure themselves a winning percentage of at least .500 in the 2021-22 regular season.
LaMelo Ball’s 26 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and four steals led Charlotte. Rozier finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Kelly Oubre Jr. totaled 16 points and six rebounds and Montrezl Harrell had 14 points (6-6 FG). Miles Bridges recorded 13 points and six rebounds. PJ Washington tallied 10 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
Chuma Okeke led Orlando with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks. Mo Wagner had 17 points and five rebounds. Ignas Brazdeikis and Markelle Fultz each put up 12 points, with Fultz adding five rebounds and six assists. R.J. Hampton registered 12 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Devin Cannady dropped in 12 points.
Washington blocked Wagner’s game-opening shot attempt and Mason Plumlee tipped in Bridges’ miss to open the scoring. Fultz’s drive put Orlando on the board. After Washington’s layup, the Magic would go on an 11-2 run to take the lead. Ball cut it to 13-9 with a long-range bomb. Orlando scored at will in the paint early, shooting nearly 70 percent from the field. Cody Martin’s jam on Wagner put the Hornets down 22-18, and at that point they blew the game open. A 12-6 run to close the first gave them a 30-28 lead that would only grow larger in the second.
Some excellent ball movement led to a swinging reverse dunk by Harrell. Washington and Ball canned consecutive triples to put Charlotte ahead 42-30, and the Hornets would quickly extend the lead to 20 points thanks to a 36-11 run that dated back to the first quarter. Oubre scored nine quick points off the bench, making all four of his free throws, while Rozier and Bridges lifted the Hornets through the remainder of the first half, after which they led 70-50. Charlotte scored 40 points in the second quarter on just four made threes.
A slow start to the second half for the Hornets allowed Orlando to go on an 8-0 run out of the locker room, cutting their deficit to 12 points, 70-58. Rozier ended the drought with a pair of free throws after three and a half minutes of play, and he and Bridges’ smooth scoring built Charlotte’s lead back over 20 points, 90-68. Admiral Schofield knocked down a pair of threes, prompting a timeout from James Borrego. Ball hit his 300th career three-pointer soon after, making him the youngest player in NBA history with 300 made threes. The Magic outscored the Hornets 12-7 as the third wound down and won the quarter overall 32-27 to bring their deficit within 15 points, 97-82.
Charlotte ripped off 11-straight points to begin the fourth, including an electric between-the-legs, off-the-backboard alley-oop from Ball to Harrell. McDaniels’ (relatively light) foul on Hampton caused a bit of a brouhaha, kerfuffle, tiff, or whatever term one prefers. Harrell, Robin Lopez and Schofield were all subsequently ejected after escalating the fracas. Okeke made a three that made it a 20-point game at 108-88, but the Hornets kept pace and were able to remove all starters and insert James Bouknight, Kai Jones and JT Thor to close the game.
My takeaways from tonight’s blowout; Harrell and IT’s minutes for the play-in will depend entirely on the matchup; really solid defensive game from Oubre and PJ; Rozier getting his groove back is crucial for a playoff push; that “fight” was really funny; glad to see Bouknight hasn’t been banished to the bench for the rest of the season; Melo is the GOAT.