LeMalo has a Ball as Hornets beat Thunder, game round ups

By DJ Arthurs

December 30, 2022

NBA Charlotte Hornets Team Logo

Oklahoma City Thunder 113, Charlotte Hornets 121

Betting Results:
Head to Head: Charlotte Hornets, odds 1.83
Line: Charlotte Hornets (-1.5), odds 1.91
Total Points: Under (240.5), odds 1.87

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP: STEVE BELL) — LaMelo Ball had 27 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-113 on Thursday night for just their third victory in the last 14 games.

P.J. Washington added 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting and Charlotte got a promising effort from rookie center Mark Williams with career highs of 17 points and 13 rebounds to go along with two blocks.

Mason Plumlee added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets. They outscored the Thunder 18-10 in the final 4:14 to break open a tie game.

“I'm just taking what the defense gives me,” said Ball, who was 5 of 10 from 3-point range and is shooting 38.5% from the beyond the arc since returning from a sprained ankle.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 28 points for Oklahoma City. Luguentz Dort added 22 and Josh Giddey had 21 points and 10 rebounds. The Thunder had won four of their last five.

The 7-foot Williams gave the Hornets a promising look into their future.

The 15th overall pick in the draft out of Duke has spent the majority of the season in the G League and recovering from an ankle injury. He'd never crested double digits in points or rebounds in his previous five NBA games, but made a big impression in front of Hornets fans in his first home game.

“It felt great,” said Williams, who was 7 of 7 from the floor. “I'm playing to my strengths — running the floor, setting screens and protecting the rim, rebounding. ... just doing all the winning things and trying to provide the team a little boost.”

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Hornets coach Steve Clifford chose to use Williams as his backup center over Nick Richards.

“That means a lot and I want to show it was the right decision,” Williams said.

Said Clifford: "He has the basic background to be a very effective NBA player – he protects the rim, he’s smart, he’s good with coverages. He has to work on his screening and rolling. For somebody like ’Melo, Gordon (Hayward) or Terry (Rozier), if they get a good pick with a solid roll, we’re going to get a good shot. It’s an important part of the NBA game.”

Clifford said the Williams “showed what he's capable of” but now wants to see if he can do it on a consistent basis.

"What it gets back to in this league is you have to do it three or four times a week and you have to do it against different types of players and different types of coverages,” Clifford said.

The Hornets, who returned home after a six-game trip, shot 72.7% in the first quarter and led the entire first half until Mike Muscala hit down a corner 3 at the buzzer to give the Thunder its first lead of the game at halftime, 60-57.

With the game tied at 103, Ball hit a floater in the lane to put the Hornets up for good and Washington knocked down a 3 off a dish from Rozier. Rozier added two free throws and Plumlee tipped in a rebound to make it 112-103 with 1:35 remaining.

Ball put the game away with a 3-pointer from the wing and a lookahead pass to Rozier.

“They had 66 points in the paint tonight," said Thunder coach Mike Daigneault. "A lot of why we’ve had some success lately, defensively especially, has been because of our ability to protect the paint. And we certainly didn’t do that well enough.”


Thunder: Were outrebounded 52-41. ... Tre Mann had 17 points off the bench.

Hornets: Shot 54.8% from the field. ... Kelly Oubre Jr. returned to action after missing a game with a left hand sprain but left early after getting hit in the hand. He played 14 minutes.


Thunder: Host Philadelphia on Saturday night.

Hornets: Host Brooklyn on Saturday night.

Cleveland Cavaliers 126, Indiana Pacers 135

Betting Results:
Head to Head: Indiana Pacers, odds 2.80 - upsetting the odds
Line: Indiana Pacers (+5.5), odds 1.93
Total Points: Over (223.5), odds 1.88 - by miles

INDIANAPOLIS (AP: PHILLIP B. WILSON) — Tyrese Haliburton scored 29 points, Buddy Hield made a 3-pointer three seconds into the game and added 25, and the Indiana Pacers beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 135-126 on Thursday night. That 3-second, 3-pointer was the fastest recorded in NBA history.

Haliburton was 6 for 8 from 3-point range and Hield, who leads the NBA in 3-pointers, was 5 for 6. The Pacers finished 19 of 31 from beyond the arc.

“You can't ask for much better shooting than that,” said Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith, who had 22 points. “They shoot the ball like that, it's going to be tough to beat us any night.”

Indiana trailed by seven early in the fourth quarter before rallying. Hield fed Nesmith for a go-ahead dunk to give the Pacers a 120-119 lead with 4:26 remaining.

“This is the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in a very long time,” said Nesmith, a third-year pro acquired from Boston in the offseason.

Haliburton converted a three-point play on the next possession and the Pacers never surrendered the lead.

“This game was about our defense, or the lack of it,” said Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff, whose team ranks No. 1 in fewest points allowed at 105.5 per game. “We decided we wanted to play Indiana Pacers basketball and that's their strength. We didn't play Cleveland Cavaliers basketball and play to our strength.”

Bennedict Mathurin scored 23 points and Myles Turner 14 as Indiana snapped a five-game losing streak against the Cavaliers, who have lost three in a row.

“Any time the ball is going into the basket like that, you feel good,” said Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, who took over after Rick Carlisle was ejected. "But (the Cavaliers) are capable of doing that. And that's scary for us.

“When the ball goes into the basket, it makes you want to play that way. We have to play that way. And Ty is our leader. He's going to set the tone and the pace for us."

All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell scored 28 points to lead a balanced Cleveland offense with seven double-digit scorers. Mitchell sank five of the Cavaliers' 12 3-pointers.

“We kept giving up 3s,” Bickerstaff said. “The 3-ball is the way back into the game. It’s personnel-driven, understanding the person you’re guarding, being on high alert that that’s what they are looking for. I just didn’t think we had the focus on the defensive end of the floor because we were scoring points. We have to be able to do both."

Cleveland's Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen each had 19 and All-Star guard Darius Garland finished with 18 points and eight assists.

The 3-point barrage began just three seconds in as the opening tip was batted directly to Hield, who turned and swished a shot that was the fastest 3-pointer recorded since play-by-play began in 1996-97. In the first half, the Pacers hit 9 of 15 from beyond the arc and the Cavaliers 7 of 13. The Cavaliers led 68-64 at halftime.


Cavaliers: Dropped to 6-10 on the road. ... Forward Cedi Osman (back) was a last-minute inactive and center Robin Lopez (illness) missed his second consecutive game.

Pacers: Carlisle was assessed two technicals and ejected with 1:29 remaining in the third quarter after arguing that an off-balance Mitchell threw the ball off the backboard to himself. ... Mathurin leads the league in bench scoring at 17.6 points per game.


Cavaliers: Visit Chicago Bulls on Saturday.

Pacers: Host L.A. Clippers on Saturday.

Memphis Grizzlies 119, Toronto Raptors 106

Betting Results:
Head to Head: Memphis Grizzlies, odds 1.56
Line: Indiana Pacers (-4.5), odds 1.92
Total Points: Under (230.5), odds 1.88

TORONTO (AP: IAN HARRISON) — Ja Morant had a career-high 17 assists and scored 19 points and the Memphis Grizzlies won for the first time in three games, beating the struggling Toronto Raptors 119-106 on Thursday night.

Dillon Brooks scored 25 points, Desmond Bane had 16 before fouling out and Steven Adams had 14 points and 17 rebounds. Memphis recorded a season-high 37 assists and won its third straight north of the border after losing its previous seven trips to Canada.

“It’s super impressive,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said about Morant’s 17 assists. “Tons of credit to Ja. It just sets a tone for us. His unselfishness, we talk about that all the time.”

Pascal Siakam had 25 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto before fouling out, extending his career-best streak with 25 or more to six. Gary Trent Jr. scored 20 points and O.G. Anunoby had 16 as Toronto’s home losing streak reached five. The Raptors have lost eight of 10 overall.

“That’s pretty unacceptable with the effort we gave,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “We’ve got to get focused and connected and get serious about playing harder.”

The Grizzlies came in having lost four of five, but beat Toronto by outscoring the Raptors 70-50 on points in the paint.

“If we’re clicking like this, a lot of teams can’t beat us,” Brooks said.

Morant shot 9 for 19 and had a pair of eye-popping dunks in his first career game in Toronto. He missed last season’s road game against the Raptors because of a sprained left knee, while the two previous meetings were played outside Canada because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cheered in the pre-game introductions, Morant drew gasps and cheers from the crowd with his only basket of the second quarter, using a pump fake to evade Anunoby at the 3-point line before exploding to the rim for a two-handed slam.

“I think they’ve been watching what’s all over the internet of him flying around, dunking on guys, putting on a show,” Brooks said of the welcome Morant received from Toronto fans. “They were ready to watch and he didn’t disappoint.”

Morant reached his assist mark by racking up seven in the third quarter.

“He’s able to get three, four guys on him and find us for 3s, find us for dump offs,” Brooks said. “He’s a one-in-a-generation talent.”

Siakam and Nurse got technical fouls after Siakam shoved Brooks following a defensive foul by Brooks late in the fourth.

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet was not available because of continued soreness in his lower back, the same injury that knocked him out a home loss to the Clippers on Tuesday night.


Grizzlies: Adams had eight rebounds in the first quarter. … Brooks was born and raised in nearby Mississauga. … Morant reached his previous high of 14 assists four times, most recently Nov. 27 at New York.

Raptors: Anunoby, Siakam, Barnes, Juancho Hernangomez and rookie Christian Koloko started, Toronto’s 18th different lineup in 35 games. … Shot 6 for 20 in the second quarter. ... Following the game, Toronto waived F Justin Champagnie.


Memphis is 13-1 this season when recording more assists than its opponent.


Toronto’s Scottie Barnes missed his first seven shot attempts and didn’t score in the first half but made seven of his final 11 attempts. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“Just got to be more aggressive from the start,” Nurse said.


Grizzlies: Host New Orleans on Saturday night.

Raptors: Host Phoenix on Friday night.

By Steve Bell, Philip B. Wilson and Ian Harrison, The Associated Press and DJ Arthurs | 12/30/22

Follow DJ Arthurs on Twitter at @DJArthursJourno

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