After a wildly entertaining and back-and-forth final quarter, the Charlotte Hornets (9-30) outlasted the Spurs 124-120 after surging out to an early lead that, despite San Antonio’s (7-34) persistent competitiveness, it refused to give up. LaMelo Ball shined in his first home game back from an extended injury time. Both teams shot the ball really well throughout this high scoring affair. San Antonio staged a furious set of fourth period rallies before a Ball field goal closed them out. The Hornets’ starters supplied 90% of the team’s output, while the Spurs’ bench chipped in 43% of their output.
Without their Rookie of the Year candidate Victor Wembanyama, Keldon Johnson off the bench (25 points), Jeremy Sochan (11 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists), Devin Vassell (17 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds), and Tre Jones (16 points and 4 assists) picked up the scoring slack - with the bench more than holding its own in the tough loss.
On the back of three straight quarter-ending field goals by the Hornets, Ball (28 points, 8 assists, and 3 steals) paced a balanced and potent attack bolstered by rookie Brandon Miller (24 points and 9 rebounds), Miles Bridges (23 points and 6 rebounds), and P.J. Washington, Jr. (20 points and 6 rebounds).
Charlotte hit on its first seven shots while taking advantage of clumsy Spurs’ execution to stake itself to a dougle-digit lead early in the first. The Hornets’ frontline connected from behind the arc often, while the visitors had difficult finishing possessions. Tre Jones and Jeremy Sochan steadied the ship to prevent a blowout, and Johnson’s scoring and playmaking helped eat into the deficit.
San Antonio gave back some of the progress it made to start the second quarter, as Ball seemed to show no rust from the time off. Miller refined his 3-point touch, and Miles Bridges attacked the rim with little deterrence. The Spurs encouragingly were able to stay within three possessions throughout the frame, but left the half down eight.
Charlotte looked to runaway in the third quarter and hide, but improved offense from Collins and Vassell kept San Antonio in shouting distance - continuing the team’s recent spate of ‘acceptable’ third periods. The Spurs’ run was snuffed out via a closing 12-3 run punctuated by the third of the Hornets’ quarter-ending buzzer-beaters - this time by Ball.
- Washington, Jr. is only 6’7”?
- Sequence of the Game #1: Julian Champagnie drove baseline midway through the opening drame and found a well-positioned Sochan with a pocket-pass for a slam.
- Sequence of the Game #2: Midway through the third quarter, Vassell spun a pass around several arms to an awaiting Barlow in the corner for a three.
- Blake Wesley, mid-dribble mind you, roped a crosscourt bullet to Johnson for a three late in the first quarter. He later spoonfed a soft pass into Collins that netted the center freebies. I didn’t know he had that in his bag!
- Sochan as a passer to cutters from the free throw line looks promising, and that also gives him the ability to fade back quickly in transition. Sochan as the tip of the spear in transition also feels very natural, too.
- Aesthetically, I’m not sure if those three lines near the free throw area are the outlines of a basketball or a hornet’s abdomen.
- JT Thor is going to be one of the best Marvel/NBA collab names.
- Stumbling out of the gate, San Antonio turned the ball over three straight times. The Spurs became active in the passing lanes and netted a handful of turnovers of their own, but Charlotte unfurled a barrage of threes to go up 10. Sochan’s and Jones’ activity, particularly on the defensive end, stopped the bleeding, while Johnson came in and netted a lightning-quick bakers dozen. The galvanized visitors left the first down just two after a Ball bucket.
- Johnson’s transition layup early in the second period caused Sean Elliott to quip “He should shoot it only when he has it(!)”. Miller’s hot shooting and MIles Bridges’ relentless assaults at the rim helped push the Hornets stay safely ahead. Terry Rozier continued his run of successful efforts against San Antonio, while Dominick Barlow showed off a deft shooting touch. Bridges banked in a desperation three to send the Hornets into the break up 66-58.
- Collins and Washington went at each other fiercely coming out of the break, but Charlotte maintain a stranglehold on the lead. A steal by Vassell and an impressive pass led to an emphatic Johnson slam to bring San Antonio within two. The turnover bug bit the Spurs and Ball took advantage as part of a 7-0 run. Wesley followed up a 3-point play and pestered Ball upcourt. Ball willed home a stepback three to end the period.
- Jones’ free throws ended a 7-0 Spurs run to start the fourth. His three and subsequent kickout to Cedi Osman for a three brought San Antonio within one. A transition foul committed against Johnson was sustained (thank you ‘marginal contact!’) after review and allowed Keldon to briefly stake the Spurs to the lead. The teams exchanged and-1s before a nonchalant three by Ball started a final run to push Charlotte up nine.
- Three crucial buckets by Jones made it a one-possession game. Threes by Miller and Washington, Jr. were answered by a Johnson triple. Jones drew a Derrick White-worthy offensive foul on Bridges, and Collins knocked down a jumphook. Sochan forced a Rozier turnover, but Collins was whistled for an offensive foul at the worst possible time. Ball converted an acrobatic reverse layup to put Charlotte up three. Right as I muttered to myself “it’s gonna be a Devin jumper and it’s gonna be a miss,” Vassell left a wing three just short. Vassell’s banked in a runner from 25 feet, but San Antonio was turned away from its miraculous comeback.
The Spurs continue their East Coast trek Saturday in a road SEGABABA with Kyle Kuzma and the Washington Wizards at 6:00 PM CDT.