About 24 hours before the start of the Hornets-Cavaliers’ game on Friday, the NBA announced the final batch of players who made the 2022 NBA All-Star team.
Hornets coach James Borrego said while he was disappointed his players didn’t make it, he hoped they would use it as motivation.
But it was two of the Hornets’ reserves who played like they had something to prove. Trailing by six points with 2:01 remaining, the Hornets made some key defensive stops, and P.J. Washington and Kelly Oubre hit back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers, which helped give the Hornets a 3-point lead with 46.2 seconds remaining.
However, the Cavaliers had the final say. Trailing by one point with 1.2 seconds left, power forward Kevin Love hit two free throws, and help deal the Hornets their third consecutive loss, 102-101.
Ball finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists, but also had five fouls and did not play for much of the fourth quarter. Terry Rozier finished with a team-high 24 points.
Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game:
Gordon Hayward back, but…
The Hornets are a better offensive team when Gordon Hayward is healthy and on the floor, averaging six more points per game.
Entering Friday’s game, the Hornets were 50-39 with him in the lineup, and 11-24 without him.
But Hayward was clearly rusty in his first game back in two weeks. Hayward had missed the past six games, including four because of COVID protocols.
He finished with 7 points on 3 of 13 shooting. He also added 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
Hayward is averaging 17 points per game this season. They’ll need that from him to compete with the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Plenty of bad defense
There were moments in Friday’s game when the Hornets were just bad defensively. They had trouble staying in front of the Cavaliers’ guards, without All-Star Darius Garland.
That led to the Hornets’ defenders having to help, which led to many open 3s.
The Cavs made 14 of 35 3-pointers. The Hornets were fortunate the Cavs didn’t make more.
The Hornets were outscored 30-15 in the second quarter, and trailed for the entire second half.
The Cavs ended the first half on a 25-9 run. The run was aided by some silly turnovers by LaMelo Ball, but bad defense was at the forefront of the Hornets’ struggles. They trailed by as many as 17 points.
No answer for Jarrett Allen
The Cavs’ big man, who was also snubbed from the All-Star Game, was dominant Friday.
The Hornets had no answer for Allen, who dominated in the paint and on the glass. He finished with 29 points and 22 rebounds.
His “And-1” dunk with 2:01 remaining gave the Cavaliers’ a six-point lead. And though that lead wasn’t big enough, it put pressure on the Hornets.
Allen kept possessions alive, and gave the Cavs second chances from his 11 offensive rebounds. Hornets big man Mason Plumlee could not stop him.