The Charlotte Hornets topped the Detroit Pistons, 117-106 to collect their fifth-straight victory, but lost LaMelo Ball to a fractured ankle in the process.
Soon after the game, the Hornets provided an update after ruling Ball out for the game when he initially suffered the ankle injury.
OFFICIAL: LaMelo Ball suffered a fracture in his right ankle in tonight’s home game vs. Detroit.— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 28, 2023
Presented by @novanthealth
Terry Rozier led Charlotte (20-43) with 22 points and Gordon Hayward followed up with 19 points, five rebounds and six assists. Kelly Oubre Jr. added 18 points and five rebounds and Mark Williams posted 15 points on 7-10 shooting, 11 rebounds and three assists. Ball finished with 18 points on 6-7 from range, six rebounds and five assists in 21 minutes before heading to the locker room. Dennis Smith Jr. logged seven points and seven assists.
Hamidou Diallo and James Wiseman each put up a game-high 23 points for Detroit (15-47). Marvin Bagley III contributed 21 points and 12 rebounds and Alex Burks had 17 points. Killian Hayes tallied 12 points and 10 assists.
The Pistons rolled with a skeleton crew tonight. Killian Hayes was the only usual starter in the lineup, and they only had eight healthy players in uniform. Unsurprisingly, the Hornets took advantage, with Ball sinking four threes in the opening minutes and Hayward getting to his spots in the mid-range with ease, pushing them out to an early 18-13 lead. Charlotte quickly stretched the lead beyond double-digits and by the end of the first, they led 41-21. The Hornets shot 14-17 from the field, 7-7 from deep and 6-6 from the stripe in the first, closing the quarter on a 34-8 run to take their biggest lead through 12 minutes all season.
HEAT CHECK— NBA (@NBA) February 28, 2023
LaMelo (12 PTS) is 4/4 from 3 early in Charlotte.https://t.co/1pomQZMAZK pic.twitter.com/6X6Rv8inML
Smith was active at the start of the second, nearly ending Bagley’s life with a dunk attempt before getting whistled for a technical after getting tangled up with RJ Hampton. The Hornets led 48-28 at the timeout break just shy of the halfway mark with Ball’s hot shooting leading the way, though everyone to see the floor had gotten involved in some way. Charlotte led by 20 for most of the first half. The Pistons reserves just couldn’t create many decent looks and when they did, struggled to knock them down. At the half, the Hornets led 64-46, shooting 56.1 percent from the floor and 9-15 from deep as a team, six of those triples coming from Ball.
Can you FEEL IT Buzz City⁉️ @MELOD1P x @gordonhayward x @MarkWi1liams | @drpepper pic.twitter.com/jht2c3Se25— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 28, 2023
Ball suffered the ankle fracture with about nine-and-a-half minutes left in the third. Here’s a clip of the play during which it happened:
LaMelo Ball had to leave the game after this play pic.twitter.com/mlxbWUCqUN— Bally Sports: Hornets (@HornetsOnBally) February 28, 2023
He got up from making that pass, labored down the floor for a defensive possession while waving to the bench for a sub, and then Steve Clifford called a timeout to get him out. Thor took over for a short stretch in his place, driving to his let for a strong finish and then nailing a corner three. Charlotte held serve after Ball exited and led by 16 heading into the fourth quarter, 92-76.
Kai making MOVES @Jones242 | @HornetsOnBally pic.twitter.com/PDjMfKyvm6— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 28, 2023
The Pistons took advantage of the wind being taken out of Charlotte’s metaphorical sails in the fourth, going on a 14-0 run to get within seven. Turnovers and lackadaisical defense killed the Hornets as they let go of the rope a bit, allowing Detroit to get as close as five, but it didn’t take too long for them to right the ship. Hayward and Oubre each converted a timely and-one, Oubre hit a trey and then threw himself into the stands for the second time tonight, and Williams put back his own missed free-throw to keep the lead in the double-digits with 2:33 to go. The rookie has built a quick habit of making plays in the clutch. Rozier’s and-1 with 46.4 seconds left iced it, and though it got a bit too close for comfort against the East’s worst team with only eight healthy players, the Hornets pulled out a 117-106 win.
Obviously, five-straight wins matters a lot less when your star point guard fractures his ankle. The Charlotte Observer’s Rod Boone has reported that Ball is “out indefinitely,” and it’s highly unlikely we see him on the floor again this season with 19 games remaining. Just a bummer all-around, especially for Melo, who was in the midst of one of the best stretches of his career. Sigh.
The Hornets are back in action on Wednesday, March 1 against the Phoenix Suns. All signs point to Kevin Durant making his Suns debut at the Spectrum Center. Perfect timing.