The Charlotte Hornets’ four-game winning streak ended with a thud and an injury to a significant player.
The Dallas Mavericks jumped on the Hornets early at Spectrum Center for a 104-93 victory, ending the Hornets’ longest winning streak in two seasons. Mavericks star Luka Doncic dominated, with 34 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.
Of potentially greater importance long-term, Charlotte small forward Gordon Hayward, who has played at an All-Star level, left the game in the third quarter with a left hip strain. He did not return after scoring 16 points.
Hayward, a free-agent acquisition of huge impact, is the Hornets’ leading scorer in a 6-6 start, averaging 22.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and four assists.
Terry Rozier led the Hornets in scoring with 18 points and added six rebounds. P.J. Washington had 16 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Five observations off the game:
When the Hornets reported Hayward’s injury, they only said he was out for the rest of the game; no additional details were available immediately.
This is a crowded schedule for the Hornets, the first of three games in four nights. The Hornets were scheduled to fly to Tampa after the game for Thursday and Saturday meetings with the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors play home games this season in Florida due to the travel restrictions in and out of Canada in the pandemic.
The Hornets started out slow offensively — which has been a habit for the starting unit —and didn’t really get better the rest of the first half.
Charlotte’s 43 points matched a season-low for scoring in any half this season. Terry Rozier was the only effective offensive player for the Hornets that half, with 13 points off 5-of-9 shooting.
As a group the Hornets shot 35% from the field and committed seven turnovers in the first half. They didn’t reach 30 points until 3 1/2 minutes remained in the second quarter.
Dallas hadn’t played or practiced in three days, following COVID-19 issues that caused it to have five players out for health-and-safety protocols.
However, they got back 7-foot-3 Kristaps Porziingis, who missed Dallas’ first nine games this season while recovering from knee surgery. Porzingis scored 10 first-half points and the Mavericks attacked the rim relentlessly — outscoring the Hornets in the lane 28-14.
That LaMelo starting question
When coach James Borrego was asked pregame if there was any change in the lineup, he expanded on why rookie LaMelo Ball isn’t a starter yet.
“This is where we started the season: bringing him off the bench. I feel comfortable with that right now,” Borrego said. “We’ll obviously look different with him as a starter someday ...
“When we get to that point, we’ll adjust, but for right now, this is what works for us, and I believe it’s what’s best for LaMelo as well and our team.”
The Hornets did a great job of containing Most Valuable Player candidate Doncic two weeks ago in Dallas, holding him to 12 points in a Hornets’ road blowout.
No such luck Wednesday: Doncic scored or assisted on 14 of Dallas’ 24 first-half baskets to build a lead of as much as 18 points.
Doncic and Ball share a versatility that includes rebounding. Ball entered this game with three consecutive games of 10 or more rebounds. Doncic was the last rookie to do that, two seasons ago.