Hornets hang on late to overcome Lakers’ comeback attempt

Four different Charlotte players scored at least 20 points in a win at home

Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball (2) drives to the basket past Los Angeles Lakers forwards Stanley Johnson (14) and Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

CHARLOTTE — Two nights after setting a franchise record for the most points in a game, the Charlotte Hornets earned another landmark win on Friday with their first victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in more than four years. 

The Lakers (24-26) trailed by 16 points but used a 30-point second-half performance from Russell Westbrook to climb back into the contest. With less than a second left on the clock, the nine-time NBA All-Star came up empty on a potential game-winning 3-pointer as the Hornets (28-22) held on for a 117-114 home victory.

Charlotte’s third win in a row was its ninth out of its last 12 contests. 

“In this league, you just have to find ways to win,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “Some nights it’s going to be pretty and some nights it’s not. Sometimes you’re coming back and sometimes you hold on to leads. There’s 1,000 ways to win an NBA game. We found one way tonight, and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Four different players scored at least 20 points for Charlotte.

Miles Bridges had a team-best 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Ish Smith recorded a season-high 22 points and five rebounds off the bench. LaMelo Ball posted 20 points and seven rebounds to add to Terry Rozier’s 20 points and six rebounds; Mason Plumlee added eight points, 17 rebounds and six assists in his 38 minutes. P.J. Washington scored 12 bench points.

“Russell Westbrook did a great job of almost winning that game for them, but we pulled it out,” Bridges said. “We got big defensive stops and big defensive rebounds. We went home with a dub, and that’s all that matters.”

With 37 points and five assists, Westbrook had possibly his best game yet with the Lakers but he didn’t get much help from the other four Lakers starters, who combined for just 22 points. Another newcomer to the Lakers, 19-year league veteran Carmelo Anthony, came off the bench to add 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Austin Reaves had 16 points and eight rebounds.

Both teams were missing key playmakers in the game. Kelly Oubre Jr. (ankle) and Gordon Hayward (NBA’s health and safety protocols) were absent for Charlotte, and LeBron James (knee) and Anthony Davis (wrist) did not play for Los Angeles. 

Smith said the Hornets’ ability to win with a young lineup has improved the team’s chances of making noise in the postseason.

“We’re so young that we don’t even know how good we really are,” Smith said. “JB and the coaching staff do a great job of kind of keeping us level-headed — we don’t get too high or too low.

“We have a really talented team, so hopefully we look up and we’re right in that door, but we’re not far at all.”

The Hornets can rest on Saturday before challenging the Clippers (25-26) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in a second straight home game against a Los Angeles-based opponent.