Denver Dominates The Paint To Put Away Hornets

Ball Narrowly Misses Triple-Double Again, Jokić and Nuggets Take Control in 3rd Quarter

While the Charlotte Hornets did an admirable job of holding the NBA’s most efficient 3-point shooting team in check, their efforts were negated by an enormous amount of conceded paint points to the Denver Nuggets in a 119-105 home loss on Saturday night.

For the second straight game, LaMelo Ball came up one rebound shy of a triple-double, resulting in 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting, nine rebounds, 12 assists and two steals. His nine first-half assists tied a career high for any half and he also stretched his 3-point field goal streak to a franchise-record-tying 46 consecutive games.

Charlotte led wire-to-wire over the opening two quarters to take a 60-57 lead into the break. Things started to turn in the third quarter though, after Denver shot 63% and scored 26 paint points in the frame to enter the fourth up by 11. The Nuggets continued to run their top-ranked offense through superstar Nikola Jokić the rest of the way to snap a four-game road losing streak.

Overall, the two most glaring issues for the Hornets were rebounding and free-throw shooting. Charlotte lost the battle on the glass, 51-37 – which included 14 offensive rebounds for Denver – and sank only 17-of-29 attempts at the line (58.6%). The Nuggets connected on only 5-of-23 3-point attempts (21.7%), but closed the evening with a whopping 78 points in the paint on 63.9% shooting, the most by any Charlotte opponent this season.

“We got off to a great start,” said Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford afterwards. “I thought our defense was terrific, really as good as it’s been all year. Our rebounding really hurt us in the first half… and our free-throw shooting. We should’ve been up 10, 12 or 15 at halftime if we did those things, finish possessions, but our effort was great. When they brought Jokić back in the second quarter, it was every play the rest of the game. We should’ve had more stuff in tonight to try to guard him. That’s my fault. We needed to have ways to keep him off balance, which we didn’t. He showed you why he’s been an MVP, and he may be again.”

Added PJ Washington, “I think the start of the third quarter, they were just the more aggressive team. They just pretty much beat us in everything – fast-break points, points at the rim. They just wanted it more, so that’s all that was. We’ve got to pay attention and know our opponents better and not let them get into rhythm.”

Washington (22) and Gordon Hayward (21) both had 20-point games in the loss, with Dennis Smith Jr. (15) and Terry Rozier (12) also posting double-digit scoring performances. It was another quiet night from behind the arc though, as the Hornets tallied less than 10 3-pointers for the eighth time in 11 outings (8-of-32; 25%).

Jokić amassed game highs in points (30) and rebounds (16) to go along with 10 assists for his 20th triple-double of the season, which is now double the next closest player (Luka Dončić). Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led six other Denver players in double figures with 15 points, which helped overcome the absences of fellow starters Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon.

Post Game Interviews

Coach Steve Clifford

PJ Washington

Coming up next for the Hornets will be another home game against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Feb. 13 starting at 7 PM ET. Follow all the action on Bally Sports Southeast and WFNZ FM 92.7.