The Hornets led by as many as 20 in the second half but had to withstand a furious charge by Russell Westbrook.
Miles Bridges scored 26 while Ish Smith scored a season high 22 off the bench as the Charlotte Hornets withstood a 30-point second half from Russell Westbrook to hold of the Los Angeles Lakers, 117-114.
The Hornets got off to a roaring good start. They jumped out to a 9-0 lead to force a Lakers timeout before they could put the ball in the basket. They kept their momentum up out of the break with stifling defense against a very limited Lakers lineup without Anthony Davis and LeBron James. The Hornets started to let up some drives to the basket as the starting lineups were broken. The Hornets led by as many as 15 about midway through the quarter, but that lead was trimmed to ten by the end of the period.
Seven straight easy points for the Lakers cut a big chunk out of the Hornets lead and forced a quick James Borrego timeout. The Hornets only got one defensive stop in the first four-and-a-half minutes of the quarter as the Lakers bench kept the game close. Ish Smith went bucket for bucket with the Lakers with 10 points in the first half of the period. The Lakers cut the lead down as low as two, but as the starters returned, so did the Hornets lead. Miles Bridges bullied his way to the basket for a couple of signature acrobatic finishes. A high energy close to the quarter saw the Hornets sprint out to a big lead just like the one they built to start the game. At the half, they led by 16.
Miles Bridges opened the second half scoring with a bouncy three, and that was followed up by a LaMelo Ball three a short time later. The lead ballooned as large as 20, but the Lakers got hot from three to make a dent in the deficit. The Hornets offense dried up on one end, and the defense fell off as well. They let Russell Westbrook get to the basket at will as the veteran poured in 14 points in the quarter. The Lakers outscored the Hornets 28-9 over a seven minute stretch through the middle of the quarter. The Lakers tied it late in the quarter and had a couple of chances to take the lead, but the Hornets held their two point lead into the fourth quarter.
Ish Smith knocked down a corner three to start the fourth quarter, his seventh make on as many attempts. He made a second three a few possessions later. The Hornets started to force a few more misses on defense, which helped them get out and run again as they pushed the lead back up as large as 10 with a fast break layup from Cody Martin. The Lakers took a timeout to stop the run, and it worked. The Hornets let up on the defensive end once again and let the Lakers work their way back into the game. A deep Terry Rozier three and a shaky Miles Bridges and-1 looked to put the game nearly out of reach, but Russell Westbrook drove in for two easy layups and knocked down two 3-pointers on four straight possessions to keep it a one score game with under a minute to go. Ish Smith answered with a couple of 2-pointers during the run in a duel no one saw coming.
LaMelo Ball found himself on the free throw line with a one point lead and 9.2 seconds to play. He calmly splashed the first, but the second drew back iron and the Lakers secured the rebound. Westbrook tried to hit the game winner from three, but Bridges threw up a strong contest and the attempt went just a bit long.
The Hornets played really well for stretches, but there were a number of times that they put forth very little effort on defense, especially in the second half. A lot of Westbrook’s second half scoring was straight line drives in isolation or the pick and roll that were met with almost no resistance at the rim.
The Hornets got their usual strong performances from Bridges, Ball, and Terry Rozier. With Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre out, they probably got their best performances of the season from Mason Plumlee and Ish Smith. Smith scored 22 off the bench and hit a couple of key baskets down the stretch while Plumlee pulled down 17 rebounds to go with eight points and six assists.
The Hornets will complete the LA back to back with a visit from the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.