The Hornets couldn’t quite get over the hump down the stretch as the Celtics held on for the win.
The teams traded baskets in a frenetic first quarter that saw little in the way of interior defense for the first several minutes. The Hornets gave up five dunks in the quarter, but that was skewed towards the early parts of the game. They trailed by five at quarter’s end despite relatively poor shooting to that point.
The Hornets gave up back to back to back open 3-pointers to Jason Richardson to start the second quarter. Kelly Oubre led a tightened up defense after a Hornets timeout with a few strong defensive stands that included several deflections. He did so much as to give the Hornets a short lead after stealing an inbound pass after a made shot and getting fouled. He did the same thing a few minutes later after a Celtics run when he ripped Jayson Tatum at half court. He finished four steals and a block in the first half alone. Meanwhile LaMelo Ball paced the Hornets offense with 17 first half points, most of which were free throws and floaters. At the break, the Hornets trailed by one.
Much like the second quarter, the Hornets opened the third quarter defensively by conceding several wide open 3-pointers that dug them into a hole. The Hornets turned the defense up again and went on a retaliatory run to pull the game relatively level, but it was short lived. Miles Bridges had to briefly leave the game with a bloody lip. The Hornets struggled with both he and Ball off the floor, and their deficit grew to 10 by quarter’s end.
Ball scored or assisted on all of the Hornets first 13 points of the second half. That was followed by a four minute dry spell that saw the Celtics built up enough of a lead that seemed to put the game out of reach, but the Hornets didn’t go away quietly. The Hornets made up ground in threes. Terry Rozier hit a three, LaMelo Ball hit three free throws after a Jayson Tatum foul and technical, and PJ Washington hit a three of his own to pull the Hornets within one with about a minute and a half to play. After a pair of Marcus Smart free throws, Rozier hit another three to tie the game. It was for naught though. The Hornets couldn’t match the Celtics free throws as Boston scored the final six points of the game.
The game followed a similar pattern throughout. The Celtics would pull ahead by double figures, but the Hornets would answer with runs to essentially even the score. We saw the last of those oscillations in the final minute, but unfortunately it ended with the Celtics peaking.
Ball finished with nine assists to go with his 38 points as he makes one last push to be named an All Star reserve. Terry Rozier chipped in a workmanlike 23 points while PJ Washington scored 16 in a starting role.
The Hornets will try to turn it around on Friday against the somehow very good Cavaliers.