Charlotte Hornets forward Gordon Hayward made two free throws with 5.8 seconds left for a 124-121 victory over the Phoenix Suns.
Phoenix’s Chris Paul was fouled by Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball with two seconds left, sending Paul to the foul line. Paul made the first to cut Charlotte’s lead to one, then intentionally missed the second free throw.
The Suns got possession out of bounds with 1.2 seconds left under the basket. Phoenix’s Devin Booker’s 3-pointer at the buzzer fell short.
The Hornets got 29 points off the bench from Malik Monk. Hayward and Ball finished with 20 each. Booker had 33 for the Suns.
The Hornets trailed by 17 points in the first half before Monk’s 20-point second quarter led them back to a one-point deficit at halftime.
Malik Monk knows the stakes of this season
Monk had a huge second quarter, making 6-of-8 from the field, 4-of-5 from 3 and 4-of-4 from the foul line.
Monk will be a free agent at the end of this season, and he appreciates the huge stakes. As he told The Observer in December, when he wasn’t playing, he’s auditioning for all 30 NBA teams.
“This is the big one. A big step to show what I can do,” Monk said of his fourth NBA season. “With other teams, not only the Charlotte Hornets. To show other teams what I can do and how productive I can be. I can’t do that if I’m not on the court, but I don’t control that.”
Monk is averaging 47% from 3-point range, by far the best of his pro career.
Worst kind of turnovers
The Hornets committed eight turnovers in the first half. That doesn’t sound terrible, except seven of those were the live-ball sort that start opponents’ transition offense.
The Suns turned those eight turnovers into 15 points.
Gordon Hayward’s quick recovery
The Hornets had a big injury scare in the fourth quarter against the Utah Jazz on Monday when leading scorer Gordon Hayward fell hard on his right hand, writhed in pain and left the game for good with 10 minutes left.
He recovered enough to play Wednesday and was productive, particularly in the mid-range, scoring 12 first-half points and getting five trips to the foul line.
Borrego excited about fans at home games
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a change in pandemic policy that would allow the Hornets to have about 3,000 fans (15% of Spectrum Center’s capacity) at home games for the first time this season. The team says it hopes for approval of a plan to start having fans at games soon.
That would please coach James Borrego, who has often talked about the lack of atmosphere at Hornets home games. Currently, 14 of the NBA’s 30 teams host some fans.
“An exciting, fun, young team. They deserve to have fans in their arena,” Borrego said. “It’s nobody’s fault, it’s just where we’re at. But (some fans) is a positive step for us.
“Just having a different spirit in there. Right now, it’s very quiet and it’s a different vibe.”
Won’t be much practice this spring
The NBA announced second-half schedules on Wednesday, to start after the All-Star break. The Hornets will play 37 games in 67 days, starting March 11 at home against the Detroit Pistons.
Only twice do the Hornets have two days between games. That’s typical in the NBA this season, but it means few practice days.
“We’re going to have to be smart with how we manage our players’ bodies, their minds and their rest,” Borrego said. “Not a lot of practice time: We’re going to have to learn through games, through film, through walk-throughs.”