Short-Handed Hornets Hang Tough Before Falling In New Orleans

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Dealt a trio of early exits, the Charlotte Hornets literally threw everything they had out on the floor in a valiant 115-96 road loss to the hometown New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.

PJ Washington put up a team-high 18 points – a season-high 16 in the first half – in the loss for the Hornets, who saw Terry Rozier (right foot discomfort), Kelly Oubre Jr. (right shoulder strain) and Dennis Smith Jr. (illness) all leave the game early with various ailments. Reserve Svi Mykhailiuk added a season-high 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting, marking his highest-scoring single-game performance since Nov. 3, 2021.

New Orleans built itself a 37-24 lead after the opening frame, then stayed comfortably ahead for most of the ensuing two quarters. The Hornets continued to chip away, getting as close as three with about four-and-half minutes remaining in the third quarter. From that point though, the Pelicans rode a 27-7 run into the fourth that essentially sealed the victory. By the time the final buzzer sounded, Charlotte was on fumes with only seven healthy bodies at its disposal.

“I thought we actually played a pretty good third quarter,” said Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford following the loss. “We’re just so disorganized [because of the injuries]. We had JT [Thor] and PJ playing positions they hadn’t before, Gordon [Hayward] handling. They’re very good defensively, but it was just hard to have any continuity on the offensive end.”

He added, “It was a seven-point deficit after the third. It’s hard to not play without Gordon and he can’t play every minute. That kind of hurt us, we got disorganized and frankly, we made some mistakes. We’re blitzing [CJ] McCollum. We made two mistakes, and he made us pay both times. We don’t have a lot of room for error. It’s doable, but you can’t make mistakes.”

Hayward (12 points) was the only other Hornet player to score in double figures, with Nick Richards tallying nine points and 14 rebounds to just miss a second straight double-double. Charlotte shot a decent 45.8% from the field (37% in the second half) but went just 9-of-37 from 3-point range (24.3%), scored only 44 points in the paint and had 17 turnovers. The Hornets also got out-rebounded by 14 (52-38) and surrendered 19 second-chance points.

On the New Orleans side, Brandon Ingram racked up a game-high 30 points, 11 rebounds and a season-high-tying 10 assists for his first career triple-double and the first 30-point triple-double by a New Orleans player since Jan. 22, 2018 (DeMarcus Cousins). Jonas Valančiūnas had 20 points and a season-high 19 rebounds, while Naji Marshall chipped in 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting off the bench.

The Hornets will now finish off their all-road back-to-back against the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, March 24 beginning at 8:30 PM ET. Follow all the action on Bally Sports Southeast and WFNZ 92.3 FM.