After losing first two games, Hornets summon season’s best effort against powerful Brooklyn
By Richard Walker
Facing one of the preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference was hardly a recipe for success for the Charlotte Hornets less than 24 hours after a frustrating home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder that Charlotte to 0-2 on the season.
And yet, the Hornets summoned their best effort of the year to take a 106-104 victory over the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
“We drop our first two and we’re playing Brooklyn in a back-to-back,” Hornets forward Gordon Hayward said. “But we fought and we competed. It was a good win and something we can build on.”
Charlotte shared the basketball, dominated the paint and limited the Nets’ fast-breaking offense.
They still had to survive a potential tying 10-footer from All-Star forward Kevin Durant in the closing seconds to survive and hold on after building a 16-point lead in the middle of the fourth quarter.
“I’m just proud of our guys,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “They’ve been busting their tails. This has to be the standard for us.”
Charlotte handed out assists on 35 of its 43 made baskets with four players having five or more. The Hornets outscored the Nets 62-26 in the paint. And they limited Brooklyn to eight transition points.
The only bad news came seconds after Durant’s miss was rebounded by Terry Rozier, who converted clinching free throws with 5.3 seconds left. On the rebound, forward P.J. Washington suffered what the team later called “a minor right ankle sprain.”
“When we’re sharing the ball and playing together, things go well for us,” Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham said.
Hayward led the way with 28 points, six rebounds and seven assists. He either scored or assisted on 19 made field goals. Rozier added 19 points and Washington 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Brooklyn (2-1) got 29 points from Durant and 25 from Kyrie Irving.
“This gives us a big jolt,” said Borrego, whose team led 97-81 with 7:54 to play before Brooklyn made it a nailbiter down the stretch.
Borrego again went with a 10-player rotation that included Washington as backup center and Hayward and Graham played 36 minutes each and Washington 35.
Rookie LaMelo Ball came off the bench again and had six points, five rebounds and five assists in 20 minutes.
“I thought he had a very mature approach tonight,” Borrego said of Ball. “I expect him to get better in every game.”
Next up for the Hornets will be a trip to Dallas for an 8:30 p.m. game on Wednesday night.
The Mavericks have veteran assistant Darrell Armstrong, a 1986 Ashbrook High graduate, on their coaching staff and former Forestview and Gaston Day standout Nate Hinton on their roster; Hinton hasn’t played in a game during Dallas’ 1-2 start.