Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Tuesday’s road game vs. Detroit Pistons

By Richard Walker

Notes and observations from Tuesday’s 102-99 Hornets’ road win over the Detroit Pistons that improved Charlotte to 32-33 overall:

… With the 21st starting lineup of the season and without five players who combined to play 268 games (170 starts), the Hornets got some unexpected contributions from Caleb Martin and Jalen McDaniels and a solid all-around fourth quarter from LaMelo Ball to tie a franchise record for excellence over another opponent. “It was just a grind-it-out game,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “Multiple guys stepped up. And Melo made key plays down the stretch.”

… Charlotte has beaten Detroit 13 straight games, last losing to the Pistons on Oct. 18, 2017. The streak ties the Hornets with the 13-game winning streak they had over Orlando from 2016 to 2018. Detroit also is the fourth team the Hornets have swept this season; The others are Houston, Minnesota and Sacramento.

… The day started off on a downer when the team announced five players would be out of action on Tuesday night – Miles Bridges (health and safety protocols), Gordon Hayward (right foot), P.J. Washington (personal reasons), Devonte’ Graham (right knee) and Cody Martin (left ankle). “We just stayed locked in,” Ball said. “We know we were missing some players. We just needed this win.”

… Ball contributed with 23 points, seven rebounds and six assists. It included 11 points and two steals in the fourth quarter capped by two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to account for the final score. “One of the areas that has surprised me the most is his ability to make big plays down the stretch,” Borrego said of Ball. “That’s special quality for a young man who’s 19 years old.”

… Caleb Martin added 17 points and five rebounds, including 14 points in the first half. Terry Rozier had 18 points and six assists, Brad Wanamaker 15 points, Cody Zeller 11 points and eight rebounds and McDaniels 10 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Zeller did so after needing five stitches after getting popped in the lip in the first half. “We don’t win that game without Zeller.”

… Rozier has frequently been a closer for the Hornets this season and he scored two buckets in the final 1:31 after Detroit had closed within 96-94. “It wasn’t perfect but it went our way,” Rozier said. “Every game’s important, especially late in the season.”

… Bridges was missing his first game of the season and reports indicate he may be quarantined for up to 14 days, which could cost him the last eight games of the regular season.

… When was the last time all of Charlotte’s players were healthy this season? March 18. And Borrego has only had a roster of fully healthy players for 10 of the team’s 65 games and may not have players available for the rest of the season.

… The Hornets trail sixth-place Miami (35-31) by 2 1-2 games with seven games left on Charlotte’s schedule. If the Hornets can’t get into sixth place to secure an automatic playoff berth, he’s how the play-in playoffs will work the for the Hornets: A seventh- or eighth-place finish means the team gets two chances to advance during the May 18-21 play-in schedule. But a ninth- or 10th-place finish means one loss would eliminate Charlotte.

What’s next: The Hornets host the Chicago Bulls on Thursday at 7 p.m.