Hornets nearly blow 25-point lead but hold on for 5th straight win

Charlotte point guard LaMelo Ball was just one shot away from tying his scoring career-high

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) brings the ball up while defended by Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Nov. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CHARLOTTE — Chasing their fifth win in a row, the Charlotte Hornets saw a 25-point lead over Indiana dissolve on Friday night as they narrowly escaped the Pacers with a 121-118 victory at home.

LaMelo Ball posted a season-high 32 points along with 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Hornets (10-7), whose five consecutive wins make up their longest win streak since 2018. The point guard was 12-for-22 from the field in his fifth double-double of the season, coming just two points shy of tying his career-high in scoring.

Gordon Hayward added 25 points and three steals while Kelly Oubre Jr. had 16 points off the bench. Former Hornet Jeremy Lamb led the Pacers (6-11) with 23 points — all during the second half — and Malcolm Brogdon notched 16 points.

The Hornets went into halftime with a 63-48 lead after two quarters of offensive domination by Ball and Hayward; the two players continued that pattern into the middle of the third quarter where Charlotte held an 82-57 edge on the scoreboard.

“To build that lead, I thought we played extremely well with some of our best basketball this season for two and a half quarters,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “There are a few things we have to correct down the stretch and we’ll deal with that….We got a little sloppy, but found a way to close it out.”

Up 25 points, the Hornets momentarily revelled in their largest lead in any game this season. At this point, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle chose to sit his starters indefinitely as he kept his bench unit anchored by Lamb on the court for the rest of the matchup.

The decision paid off well for Carlisle.

Indiana slowly climbed back into the game while the Hornets shot themselves in the foot with numerous unforced errors, committing 16 turnovers in the second half after just one total in the first half.

Despite outscoring Charlotte 33-23 in the fourth quarter and closing out the final three minutes on an 18-3 run, the Pacers’ comeback rally simply ran out of time. Lamb’s 3-pointer with 19.1 seconds left brought the Pacers within three points, but they were unable to get the ball back in time to attempt a game-tying long ball before the final buzzer.

After the game, Hayward said that while “a win is a win,” the Hornets could still take a valuable lesson from the contest’s outcome.

“I think you do treat it as a learning experience and a tale of two halves,” the small forward said. “You’ve got to give credit to those guys. They kind of mucked up the game a little bit, trapped and made it unorthodox. We just have to be better at handling that so credit to them. This is certainly something we can learn and get better at.”

With Friday’s victory in the Spectrum Center, Charlotte has concluded its 4-0 homestand that included wins over Golden State (14-2) and Washington (10-5). The Hornets will now start a three-game road trip that begins at Atlanta on Saturday night against the 7-9 Hawks.