Tuesday, December 7

LaMelo Ball learns to lead as Hornets collapse in fourth quarter

A vital part of the process with a young team is learning how to close matches, especially on the road.

The Charlotte Hornets couldn’t make it at STAPLES Center, with a brutal 27-4 closing run for the LA Clippers that plunged the Hornets in a disappointing loss.

Possibly the most entertaining League Pass team in the league, the Hornets now fall to 5-6 on the season as they sail on a five-game trip to the West Coast that is off to a 0-3 start. Next up is the Los Angeles Lakers, before the trip concludes with a visit to Memphis.

Trailing two points into the fourth, the Hornets began the final period with a 15-4 run, before LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward entered the game. From then on, the Hornets gave up the run 27-4, and the duo were scoreless down the stretch.

“I feel like I have to be there longer in the fourth quarter, do you understand?” Ball said after the game in response to the Washington Post’s Ben Golliver. “I feel like I was a little late in the game…”

“If not, I feel like we could let go of the team that was leaving.”

The decision to sit Ball and Hayward for nearly six minutes to start the period made some sense, with James Borrego’s starting lineup opening a gap.

It comes just two weeks after Ball told Borrego to keep him on the bench and ride Ish Smith’s hot hand in a huge road win over the Brooklyn Nets.

“Melo, I have to give Melo a lot of credit. He said, ‘Just get out of Ish. Ish is hot, Ish is rolling. I trust it. Let’s go,'” Borrego explained after the victory of October 26.

“And that’s just maturity on his part. He could easily have wanted to come back on that one, but Ish delivered tonight. Second half, big shots, big plays, both sides of the ball, great blocking on the other side on defense. Like this. you have to give Ish a lot of credit. “

The main difference this time around was that the Hornets didn’t get the win, opening up an opportunity to question the rotation decision down the stretch.

Ball has been spectacular entering his second season in the league, averaging 20.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists. Despite the late fights tonight, the Hornets offense has crashed without Ball on the ground, falling for an incredible 14.8 points per 100 possessions when the rising point guard is on the bench.

Overall, Ball is only playing 30 minutes a night, but he averages 8.3 minutes a night in the fourth quarter, making tonight rare.

While the willingness to let Smith cook two weeks ago was admirable, there is a sense that his desire to be on the court tonight is the mindset Hornets fans want to see. The stars are not happy to watch from the bench. Ball is certainly on the fast track to becoming the Charlotte type.


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