About Last Night

About Last Night: Hornets earn another miracle

Lamb's lifeline, Bojan's surge and Marques Johnson's moment

Less than 24 hours after erasing an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Celtics, the Hornets needed another miracle, this time against the second-place Raptors.

Charlotte’s prayer was answered 48 feet from the basket, where Jeremy Lamb’s heave saved the game and his team’s season with all the magical arc of a rainbow to give the Hornets the 115-114 victory.

It’s been a twisted NBA road for Lamb, the once highly regarded lottery pick traded twice before his rookie contract expired. He’s still not the perfect solution for the extremely imperfect Hornets, who have relied on Kemba Walker’s greatness to just stay afloat in the Eastern Conference. Lamb is shooting just 34.1 percent from deep this season, down from the career-high 37 percent clip he produced in 2017-18.

That being said, Lamb has still been a net positive. The Hornets’ net rating is 3.3 points better with him on the floor, where his reputation still keeps defenses honest. On a team that struggles to supply consistent offense aside from Walker, Lamb (Charlotte’s second-leading scorer) is perhaps their only other candidate to go off for a big night.

On Sunday, he gave Charlotte a big moment — and a lifeline to their playoff hopes.

As always, we rate game-winning buzzer-beaters on our Horry Scale.

Reminder: The Horry Scale breaks down a game-winning buzzer-beater (GWBB) in the categories of difficulty, game situation (was the team tied or behind at the time?), importance (playoff game or garden-variety night in January?) and celebration. Then we give it an overall grade on a scale of 1-5 Robert Horrys, named for the patron saint of last-second answered prayers.

DIFFICULTY: Pascal Siakam hounded Lamb from the start of the out-of-bounds play, and even managed to poke the ball loose toward halfcourt. Forced to retreat and retrieve the ball, Lamb had no choice but to launch with Siakam still draped all over him. The Raptors’ forward is a good four inches taller than Lamb and boasts an absurd 7-foot-3 wingspan, which forced the Hornets guard to add an enormous arc to the shot. It should have had zero chance of going in.

“When I first shot it, it felt good, but in my head I was thinking, ‘It’s too good to be true if it does go in,'” Lamb admitted afterwards. “I never in a million years thought it would go in. I thought it’d get close, but to see it go in, it was unreal.”

GAME SITUATION: There are few things more deflating than the opposing team’s star player taking cool control of the game. Kawhi Leonard had just hit a key jumper and blocked a Kemba Walker floater on back-to-back possessions. Zoom out, and the Hornets’ situation was even more dire. Lose, and Charlotte trails eighth-place Miami by three games with nine to play. The Hornets’ playoff hopes were on life support. Lamb kept their pulse alive a little longer.

CELEBRATION: Lamb raced to the other side of the court, but that didn’t stop his teammates from catching up to and mobbing their Sunday-night savior. More touching was the renewal of team embraces after they appeared to have ended. Walker was among the most effusive congratulators, and for good reason. The Hornets’ franchise face has enjoyed just two playoff appearances in his seven prior seasons, with the most recent already four years in his rearview mirror.

GRADE: What a weekend for Charlotte. Back-to-back wins over Boston and Toronto in dramatic fashion, capped off by the second-longest buzzer-beater over the last 20 years (per ESPN Stats & Info). 4.5 Horrys.

Aldridge scorches Celtics

Lost amid the Spurs’ shattered transition from the Duncan dynasty to the Kawhi era is how LaMarcus Aldridge has kept San Antonio’s 21-year playoff run alive. His first two years with the Spurs seemed awkward, and his numbers seemed to indicate the former Blazer was headed for a steep decline.

Instead, Aldridge is enjoying a rare resurgence well into his 30s, earning a seventh All-Star appearance while averaging 21.0 points and 8.9 rebounds and shooting a career-high 51.5 percent.

Boston was the latest victim of Aldridge’s efficiency, which produced 48 points in the Spurs’ 115-96 rout.

Beware Bojan

Many assumed the Pacers would fade following Victor Oladipo’s season-ending quad injury in January. Defense is one big reason why they have not. The other is Bojan Bogdanovic, who torched Denver’s top-10 defense for 35 points on just 16 shots.

The former second-round pick — who was traded twice on 2011 Draft night and again in 2017 — assumed the role of Indiana’s go-to guy since Oladipo went down. The results: 21.3 points per game on 50.9 percent shooting, including 40.3 percent from 3. The only other players with that combination of production and efficiency since January 25: Karl-Anthony Towns, Pascal Siakam and Brandon Ingram.

The Pacers need every bit of Super Bojan; they’re 24th in offense since Oladipo went down. Yet Boston, their likely first-round opponent, has been a middle-of-the-pack team on both ends of the court in that same stretch. If Indy’s top-five defense holds up and Bogdanovic continues to boil, the Pacers will be anything but an easy out come April.

Marques’ moment

In many ways, the 1977-78 season was the Year of the Rookies. New Jersey’s Bernard King and Phoenix’s Walter Davis each averaged 24.2 points per game. Jack Sikma started for a Finals team in Seattle. Norm Nixon injected playmaking and pace into the previously plodding Lakers.

Marques Johnson was another significant member of that group, and the herald of renewed competitiveness for the post-Kareem Bucks. The former No. 3 overall pick averaged 19.5 points and 10.6 rebounds his rookie season, an appetizer of the high-scoring efficiency he would bring to Milwaukee for his first seven years in the league.

The five-time All-Star received his due on Sunday when the Bucks raised his No. 8 to the rafters. It’s easy to see why many Bucks fans felt the wait had already been too long; aside from his individual accomplishments, Johnson was a member of back-to-back conference finalist teams — a place Milwaukee has been just once since Johnson’s last year with the Bucks (1984).

Johnson’s appreciation for those fans and his time with the Bucks was evident in a video letter in which he stated, “I want to say thank you for embracing me as one of your own, even when I didn’t deserve it.”

He did then. He does now. Congratulations, Marques.