This was supposed to be a breather.
With the Charlotte Hornets’ strength of schedule hovering among the toughest so far through the season’s first five weeks, Wednesday night’s tilt with Orlando could have been viewed as something close to a gimme. Particularly since Cole Anthony, the Magic’s leading scorer, wasn’t playing.
But through the better part of two-plus quarters, the Hornets had trouble completely ridding themselves of their Southeast Division foe. The Magic was like a piece of gum stuck on the Hornets’ sneakers, slowly having to be peeled off. Until late in the third quarter, anyway.
That’s when the Hornets clamped down defensively, executed offensively and settled things down, using the formula to topple the Magic 106-99 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla.
Here’s what we learned in the Hornets’ seventh win in their last eight games:
TERRY COOKS AGAIN
That sick dribble move making the rounds on social media over the past two days had many fawning at Terry Rozier’s dribbling skills. It could be time for another mash-up. Except this one should feature the offensive fireworks he’s putting up of late.
For the second straight game, Rozier led the Hornets (12-8) in scoring with 27 points and sparked them offensively. He was especially on point in the third quarter, posting 11 points to help transform a seven-point deficit into a five-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
Rozier also tied a career-high with six steals, playing well on both ends.
Exactly three weeks to the day of him hyperextending his left elbow, P.J. Washington returned to the lineup for the Hornets and displayed the kind of rust expected following his extensive absence.
Washington missed 10 games after getting injured against Golden State in San Francisco on Nov. 3 and the Hornets are happy to have the versatile big man in the fold. Sporting a headband look with a white sleeve over his left arm to keep it warm and loose, he was inserted in the first quarter and logged six minutes, misfiring on both shots, collecting a rebound and a blocked shot.
Perhaps not wanting to overexert him too soon and break him in slowly following his return, he didn’t play in the second half.
LaMelo Ball’s teaching moment
He was in the clear, all by is lonesome.
Having received a pass from Mason Plumlee as the Hornets’ big man stood directly at midcourt, LaMelo Ball had an unimpeded path to the bucket and looked poised to pull off the same move he usually does when he’s out on the fastbreak by himself. Except rather than simply doing his typical two-handed flush, Ball tried to go into his bag. The result will likely earn him a not-exactly-coveted spot on the next edition of the NBA on TNT staple Shaqtin a fool.
Ball bounced, well, the ball with the intent of collecting it and throwing it down in a reverse dunk. Only he couldn’t complete it and the ball caromed off the back rim, bouncing into the hands of the Magic’s Mo Bamba. Ball fouled Bomba four seconds later and immediately got the hook by coach James Borrego. He sat for the final 4:01 of the first half, no doubt as a message to underscore the importance of knowing the situation and when to curtail the flair.
Ball finished with 22 points.