Hornets Regroup After Slow Start, Nuggets Close Out Late Victory in 4th Quarter
Graham Scores Season-High 31 PTS, Charlotte’s Comeback Bid Falls Just Short
Easily one of the most emotional and spirited contests of the season for the Charlotte Hornets ended with a hard-fought 117-112 home loss to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday evening at Spectrum Center.
Devonte’ Graham returned from a four-absence because of right knee discomfort and erupted for a season-high 31 points – 19 in the fourth quarter – on 10-of-19 shooting and 7-of-14 from three, four rebounds and five assists in 33 minutes off the bench. This marked Graham’s highest scoring output since putting up a career-best 40 points in Brooklyn back on Dec. 11, 2019.
Denver raced out to an early 21-point lead before Charlotte rallied to cut the deficit down to just three by the break. After Hornets Head Coach James Borrego was ejected in the third quarter following a double-technical assessment, the Nuggets entered the final frame with their advantage having increased to just five points
The visitors then opened the final 12 minutes on a 12-4 run to go up by 13, but the Hornets rallied again to get the score back to 107-106 by the 2:31 mark after Graham scored every Charlotte point on a 14-2 run. A Facundo Campazzo three-pointer a minute later gave Denver some breathing room and Aaron Gordon’s tip-in at the 46-second mark sealed the win.
“Early on, we just had too many turnovers,” said Borrego afterwards. “Some of the shots Denver was hitting were just tough shots. They’re a great team with great players. [Our] first group has to do a better job of getting off to a better start. I thought we battled back. We didn’t hang our heads. We took care of the ball, started getting better shots, we got the ball to our bigs and that really ignited our defense. I like the way our guys responded after that slow start.”
PJ Washington (13 points and 11 rebounds) and Cody Zeller (15 points and 10 rebounds) notched their 10th and seventh double-doubles of season, respectively. Terry Rozier (21) and Jalen McDaniels (15) each crossed the 10-point plateau, with LaMelo Ball chipping in five points and game-high totals in both rebounds (12) and assists (7).
Nikola Jokić and Michael Porter Jr. each scored 30 points for Denver with the latter adding 11 rebounds and six assists, while going 16-of-17 from the free-throw line for his 58th double-double of the campaign. Fellow starter Aaron Gordon scored another 17 points and JaMychal Green was in double figures as well with 11 points off the bench.
Charlotte won the battle on the boards, 49-38, scored 60 points in the paint on 30-of-45 shooting (67%), which helped balance out a rough night from behind the arc (11-of-39; 28%). The Nuggets finished with nine more second-chance points (19-10) despite five fewer offensive rebounds, knocking off the purple and teal for the fifth consecutive time.
The Hornets will now close out their season-long five-game homestand against the LA Clippers on Thursday, May 13 beginning at 7 PM EST. Catch all the action on Bally Sports and WFNZ 610 AM or 102.5 FM.