Boston Spoils Ball’s Career Night with Late Victory

It’s unfortunate that all the NBA All-Star Game ballots have already been tallied because LaMelo Ball put on a performance Wednesday night that surely would have swayed any doubters still out there. Unfortunately for the second-year guard, his big night was bittersweet as the Charlotte Hornets fell to the Boston Celtics, 113-107, at TD Garden.

Ball wound up finishing with a career-high 38 points on 12-of-24 shooting, six rebounds and nine assists in the loss. This is Ball’s second career 35-5-5 game and according to StatMuse, only LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Luka Dončić and Zion Williamson have had more such showings before turning 21 years old in the last 40 seasons.

Ahead by one at half, Boston outscored Charlotte 34-25 in the third quarter to take a 10-point lead into the closing frame. The Hornets kept chipping away and eventually tied things at 107 with a minute remaining. After two Jayson Tatum free throws, Robert Williams III made a spectacular perimeter block on PJ Washington’s 3-point attempt to retake possession, leading to two more Marcus Smart free throws and an eventual Celtics victory.

“The reads offensively we were fine with,” said Hornets Head Coach James Borrego after the game. “We could have done a better job not settling for the three and driving it there. Defensively, just undisciplined. Two fouls – one on Smart, one on Tatum. We gave them four free throws right there. Those are teachable moments. Our guys have to be more locked in and solid in those areas. Inside of reaching in and fouling, make them earn it.”

“We came back a lot and just couldn’t finish it,” said Ball. “I didn’t even know [I scored a career high]. Pretty much just going out there and playing. We need to be squeezing out the best possessions we can. I feel like the last two, [the Celtics] contested our shots really well. They’re very athletic and cover ground. I feel like every game helps us. Just watch the film and get better from there.”

Charlotte shot 43% and went 12-of-40 from 3-point range (30%), although did connect on 15-of-21 attempts at the rim (71%). The biggest problem for the Hornets were the turnovers – they committed 16 leading to 28 Boston points, although the Celtics had 19 for 21 Charlotte points. Williams and Smart, who both sat out the Feb. 2 meeting between these teams, provided a major boost to Boston’s defensive efforts.

“We knew we couldn’t turn it over,” added Borrego. “Obviously, they’re a good defense. They climb into you and they’re aggressive. It’s a great challenge for us offensively there to make sure that we’re sound with the ball. Too many turnovers tonight, but our guys kept battling. I’m proud of the effort tonight. We just needed a stop down the stretch, but we’ll learn and grow from it.”

The Hornets will now begin a four-game homestand against the Cleveland Cavalier starting on Friday, Feb. 4 at 7 PM ET.