Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Tuesday’s home game vs. Denver Nuggets

By Richard Walker

Notes and observations from Tuesday’s 117-112 Hornets’ home loss to the Denver Nuggets that dropped Charlotte to 33-36 overall:

… Despite the loss, Charlotte wrapped up a spot in next week’s NBA play-in tournament with the Chicago Bulls’ home loss to the Brooklyn Nets later in the evening. But there were no celebrations following Charlotte’s third loss in its last four games. “No room for celebrating,” coach James Borrego said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve got to get better.” Added guard Devonte’ Graham: “No (celebration). Not at all. We’ve got to find ways to close games and play better.”

… Charlotte fell behind by 21 points in the first quarter at 36-15 and got within one twice in the third quarter and once in the fourth quarter. Borrego, ejected early in the third quarter, found solace in his team’s determination. “They fought tonight,” Borrego said. “I was proud of them. We’ve got to get closer to 48 (minutes) with that kind of effort.”

… Graham had missed the last five games with right knee discomfort but came back and had his season-high in scoring with 31 points in 33 minutes off the bench. He scored 19 points in the fourth quarter, including 14 straight for Charlotte as the Hornets nudged within 107-106 with 2:30 to play. “I was tired,” Graham said. “I was just shooting the ball with confidence and trying to make plays down the stretch.”

… Nikola Jokic led Denver with 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists with the help of 16 of 17 from the foul line. Michael Porter, Jr., also had 30 points for the Nuggets (45-24), who are battling for one of the four seeds in the Western Conference. “I’m worn out from guarding Jokic all night,” said Charlotte center Cody Zeller. “I tried to make it tough on him.”

… Terry Rozier added 21 points, Zeller 15 points and 10 rebounds, Jalen McDaniels 15 points, P.J. Washington 13 points and 11 rebounds and LaMelo Ball five points, 12 rebounds and seven assists for Charlotte.

… With the loss, Charlotte is guaranteed a losing record against the Western Conference this season as they are now 13-16 with one game left. The Hornets haven’t had a winning record against the Western Conference since going 17-13 in the 2009-10 season.

… Among the 3,997 in attendance limited by COVID restrictions was former Crest High and N.C. State star David Thompson. Thompson, who was among the inductors for Hornets owner Michael Jordan at his 2009 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, was a four-time All-Star for the Nuggets and is that franchise’s fourth-leading all-time scorer with 11,992 points.

What’s next: The Hornets host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday at 7 p.m.