Both teams came into the struggling to score, so of course we got an explosive first quarter. The teams combined to go 11-of-17 from three and made over 60% of their shots from the field. LaMelo Ball got the scoring started with a rare dunk.
The teams exploded from there, and we had a 20-20 game just five minutes in. The scoring slowed just a touch from there, but the teams played the first quarter evenly with the Raptors leading by one at the end of it.
The Hornets got 3-pointers from Ball and PJ Washington to start the second, but the Raptors answered with back to back 3-pointers from Precious Achiuwa, who came into the game 5-of-34 from three on the season. The back and forth gave way to a Raptors run that was broken only by a couple of PJ Washington push shots. The run pushed the Raptors lead to eight at the 4:28 mark of the second quarter and forced a Hornets timeout. The Hornets answered the run but couldn’t get stops on Pascal Siakam. At the half, the Hornets trailed 72-66. The teams combined to shoot 56.3% from the field in the first half.
The Hornets guards each made a pair of high difficulty shots to start the Hornets second half scoring. Ball found Mason Plumlee for his tenth assist and Plumlee’s seventh consecutive made shot a few possessions later. Terry Rozier hit several difficult shots as the quarter went on, and five straight points from JT Thor finally tied the game. Cody Martin gave the Hornets a lead with a step through right at the one minute mark of the third, but the Raptors answered with four straight to take a two point lead into the fourth quarter.
The teams yo-yoed runs through the first few minutes of the fourth quarter with the Raptors building their lead, the Hornets erasing it, and the Raptors building back. Jalen McDaniels and Plumlee were responsible for the Hornets’ counterpunches. The Hornets had a chance to take a lead with just over six minutes to play, but both of their 3-point attempts drew iron. OG Anunoby hit back to back three from the corner then Fred VanVleet hit from the top of the key for nine straight Raptors points. The run grew to 14 straight points before the Hornets finally got a bucket from Rozier. The Hornets couldn’t stop the bleeding and an Anunoby slam served as the dagger with just under a minute to go.
The Hornets played well for about 42 minutes, but that last six minutes did them in. The defense wasn’t as terrible as the score would suggest—the Raptors just made shots and got to the free throw line.
Mason Plumlee added 21 points and only missed one shot from the field.
The Hornets will hang out in Toronto to prepare for the rematch on Thursday.