LaMelo Ball had 32 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists while Gordon Hayward chipped in 27 points and 13 rebounds as the Charlotte Hornets took down the Minnesota Timberwolves, 121-113.
Gordon Hayward opened the post-All Star scoring with a mid range jumper followed by a 3-pointer. It kicked off a back and forth affair with lots of good shot making and not a lot of defense. Hayward, PJ Washington, and LaMelo Ball combined for 27 first quarter points, and Ball chipped in an additional four rebounds and three assists. The Hornets as a team were very aggressive attacking the paint, even in the presence of Rudy Gobert, and got to the line for a fair amount of their offense. Four free throws from Ball put the Hornets up 37-32 after one.
Kelly Oubre got back on the scoresheet with a pair of free throws to start the second quarter. Nick Richards picked up his third foul on the first Wolves possession the second quarter. He joined Mark Williams and his two fouls on the bench. The Hornets went small with Washington at center. The lineup thrived and broke open a double digit lead for the Hornets. The pace picked up in the later minutes of the half as both teams took turns driving and scoring in the paint. The frenetic basketball ended with a 72-64 score in favor of the Hornets at the break.
LaMelo opened the second half scoring with another 3-pointer, but the Timberwolves kept scoring to keep the game close. The scoring went cold for a little bit after that. The Hornets went about ten possessions with only one field goal, but that was snapped by a Hayward jumper. That jumper seemingly lifted the seal, and the teams again went on another binge of fast, interior-based offense. The Hornets were mostly able to stave off the Wolves and took a seven point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Timberwolves made another push to start the fourth quarter and even took the lead shortly before the eight minute mark on an Anthony Edwards three. Ball and Washington took on the offensive burden for the Hornets and helped the Hornets go stride for stride with the hot shooting Wolves. The teams traded the lead a number of times over the course of several minutes in the fourth. A Terry Rozier free throw put the Hornets up with two-and-a-half minutes to play, that proved to be the lead the Hornets would eventually hold onto. Hayward found Ball for a three about a minute later to put the Hornets up six, and then Hayward hit a little jumper in the middle that was the dagger under a minute to play.
It was a great game for the neutral observer—it was played at a fast pace with good offense and just enough good defense to show that both teams were trying. Ball and Hayward put in the marquee performances with Washington putting in a very solid 20 points and eight rebounds.
Centers Mark Williams and Nick Richards put in solid performances outside of the foul trouble that limited their minutes. Kelly Oubre had a surprisingly tame six shot attempts in 23 minutes in his first game back from injury.
The Hornets will be back in Charlotte to host the Heat on Saturday night.