The strategy of winning games in the second half was bound to backfire at some point.
The Hornets did absolutely nothing well in the first quarter. They ceded more offensive rebounds to the Cavs than they were able to secure defensively. They turned the ball over eight times and let the Cavs shoot over 50% from the field in a dunk fest. It resulted in a 40-point Cavaliers first quarter and a 19 point Hornets deficit.
The Hornets were able to force some Cavs turnovers in the second quarter and briefly cut the deficit to single digits, but the Cavs quickly responded with a 13-3 run to push the lead back up to 18 at the two minute mark of the quarter. The Hornets manufactured good looks offensively when they weren’t turning the ball over, but they couldn’t get the shots to fall. They gobbled up their own misses, but even the bunnies at the rim went begging. At the half, the Hornets trailed 65-49. In that first half, the Hornets turned the ball over 13 times and shot 35.3% from the field.
LaMelo Ball spurred a Hornets run early in the third quarter. He scored 12 points in the first five minutes of the period as the Hornets cut the deficit all the way down to four points. The Cavs responded once again and quickly built the lead back up to 12 within about three minutes. Both units made a line change of sorts, and the Hornets again made a push, and it was again answered after several poor Hornets possessions on the offensive end led to the Cavs to build the lead up to 15. PJ Washington hit a three on the Hornets last possession to pull them within 12 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hornets struggled to make a push late and started becoming visibly frustrated with the officiating. Miles Bridges in particular was knocked to the floor a couple of times throughout the course of the second half without getting the benefit of a whistle. At that point in the game, the Cavs had shot 28 free throws to the Hornets’ 12.
James Borrego took a timeout with 7:01 to play and the Hornets down 17, seemingly to gear them up for one last push. The Hornets came out of that timeout and scored 10 straight points in a little over two minutes to force the Cavs to take a timeout of their own. Ball and Rozier got points in threes for the Hornets to get the Hornets within one possession, but they couldn’t push the Hornets over the hump. The Hornets got within two a couple of times, but the Cavs hit their free throws to keep the Hornets out of reach.
In a fun little twist ending, the teams exchanged non-layup attempts. Darius Garland ran away from an unguarded layup to get fouled at half court. On the next possession, Terry Rozier did the same thing as he went after a 3-pointer. He missed.
Ball stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds and six assists to go with his 30 points. Miles Bridges struggled with his shot and the refs, but he still managed to finish with 13 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. Cody Martin and PJ Washington chipped in strong games off the bench with 10 and 18 points respectively.
The Hornets will try to get right with another (!!) nationally televised game against the Warriors on Wednesday night.