- Benjamin Gerstel
Hornets sting the Lakers' confidence in fourth quarter 117-114
Terry Rozier came out of the gates scorching fire tonight, with 8 points midway through the first. He was hitting from three-point range, hitting two tough buckets, and pulling off an elite behind-the-back hesitation move. Bridges split the Stanley-Bradley bridge, and finished a strong dunk over Deandre Jordan as well. He was throwing down slams all night, with a really impressive windmill as well. LA clearly struggled to keep up in the first half, without both of their superstars
From deep, LA shot 1/7 in the first quarter (three min left) and they didn’t have any shooters on the floor. Austin Reaves has struggled recently, Russell Westbrook has obviously had his shooting issues, Avery Bradley shot 0-4, and Wayne Ellington (who isn’t a bad shooter at all) only shot 1-3 in the first quarter. Charlotte moved the ball much faster, and looked much more athletic compared to the oldest lineup in the league. The Lakers found a bit of juice in themselves late, after an Austin Reaves eurostep over Bridges, followed by two free throws from Kent Bazemore. “Scary Terry” knocked down a three over two defenders, with one second left to respond. He finished with 11 points at the end of the first quarter, giving Charlotte a 10-point league. Charlotte was excellent on the fast break, and at finding the open man, all quarter. Jordan’s Hornets play at the second-fastest pace in the league so it’s no surprise they were able to play like this tonight.
The Lakers looked a bit better, playing a little harder and creating their own transition offense early. Followed by a hard take by Kent Bazemore, Austin Reaves had a nice tip which closed the gap a bit. The Lakers bench chipped in 22 points, and were able to compete in transition more. Bazemore hit a big three, bringing the Lakers within four, with 8 minutes left in the half. Ish smith did his best to extend Charlotte’s victory, hitting his first five shots of the game. His nasty head fake gave Charlotte a six point lead, with Bridges back in the game.
The Hornets finished the second half, on a big run. L.A. curiously switched to a small ball lineup, with Stanley Johnson at the five. It didn’t make a lot of sense because with Reaves and Bazemore playing the way they were, there was no reason to sub them out. Especially considering the +/- of their bench. While +/- isn’t a end all or be all metric by any means, the disparity was too glaring in the first half: Westbrook was -27 (tied worst of his career, on only 3 shots), Bradley was -15, Ellington was -19, Stanley was -19, and Deandre Jordan was -19. On the flip side, their bench was: Bazemore (+11), Anthony (+5) Horton Tucker (+5), Ariza (+5) and Reaves (+1). Not only was scoring a glaring issue for the Lakers starters, but Frank Vogel’s rotations were dentrimental as well.
Melo hit a three that shocked the Hornets crowd, bringing the Lakers within four after some awesome ball movement. They turned a 20 point deficit into a four point game and shot 5-10 from three in the third quarter. Russell Westbrook stuck to what he does best, finishing at the rim, and Melo hit big time shots like the three he had. After a historically bad first half, Westbrook started to play electric in the third. Reaves hit a three to tie it, capping off a 13-2 run for the Lakers. Westbrook deserves a lot of credit for bringing the Lakers back in this game. He had 14 in the third quarter alone.
While Charlotte was struggling, it was Ish Smith and LaMelo Ball, who took on the offensive workload. Ish Smith didn’t miss a shot until the final frame, with 9 minutes left to go. LaMelo drew a significant charge, and they cashed in on the next possession. Ish Smith absolutely drained a three after, giving him 18 on the night with 8 minutes left.
Both teams went back and forth in the fourth, but the Lakers lost on their final opportunity. Russell Westbrook had a shot to win the game, down two, with a solid look from the left wing. He missed it, and the Lakers lost 117-114. Los Angeles plays Atlanta on Sunday at 1:00pm EST.