On a night when the Charlotte Hornets were revealed to be in the market for Memphis big man Marc Gasol, they stumbled badly with their current lineup, losing a 20-point lead and the game to the L.A. Clippers, 117-115.
The Clippers got 34 points from Tobias Harris, including his floater in the lane with 4.3 seconds for the winning points. Charlotte’s last-chance shot - a long two-pointer from Marvin Williams off a botched inbounds play - was an airball.
The Hornets are trying to acquire Gasol, 34, before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. It is unclear what Charlotte would give up for the 7-footer, who is averaging 15.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.7 assists this season for Memphis and making $24 million to do so.
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Charlotte (26-27) led 88-68 in the third quarter before Harris and Lou Williams (31 points) shot the Clippers right back into the game.
The Hornets were paced by All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who had 32 points and nine assists in front of the 14,300 fans at the Spectrum Center. Walker had a four-point play during his 18-point second quarter. By halftime, Walker had 25 points, and the Hornets led, 58-53. But the Clippers changed defenses in the final half, trapping Walker on most possessions and often double-teaming him and forcing him to give up the ball. Walker scored only seven points in the second half as his teammates missed numerous open shots.
The Hornets tried to get Walker the ball on the final play of the game but couldn’t, even after a timeout to reset the inbounds play for a second time. That left Marvin Williams (who shot 4-for-15) to misfire.
Walker will have a busy All-Star Weekend in Charlotte in about 10 days. He was elected as a starter at guard for the Feb. 17 game and also was announced Tuesday as a contestant in the game’s three-point contest on Feb. 16th, when he will compete against brothers Steph and Seth Curry, among others.
Three who mattered
Walker: An 18-point second quarter keyed Walker’s performance. He finished with 32 points, nine assists and zero turnovers.
Tobias Harris: He outdueled Walker at the end, scoring the game-winning basket with 4.3 seconds left for the last two of his 34 points.
Miles Bridges: Just when it seemed like the L.A. Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell was going to dunk his way through the entire Hornets team before the night ended, Bridges rose into the air and stuffed one of Harrell’s dunk attempts out of bounds. That rejection drew the biggest cheer of the night.
▪ Bridges was officially announced as a participant in the All-Star dunk contest Feb. 16, when he will compete against Atlanta’s John Collins, Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo and the New York Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr. Bridges will be Charlotte’s first dunk contest participant since Gerald Wallace in 2010.
▪ After being out since New Year’s Eve due to a hand injury and subsequent surgery, Hornets center Cody Zeller returned to action. Zeller didn’t start, but entered the game midway through the first quarter. He wasn’t involved much in the offense except for setting screens, but Zeller ended up with six points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. It is possible he is involved in the trade talks with Memphis.
▪ Hornets point guard Tony Parker left the game with a back strain and did not return. His veteran presence during Charlotte’s second-half collapse would have helped.
▪ Malik Monk had a show-stopping sequence in the second quarter, going between the legs and behind his back to rid himself from a defender before scoring on an acrobatic layup.
▪ Sindarius Thornwell, who led the South Carolina Gamecocks to the Final Four in 2017, is a reserve guard for the Clippers. He played 13 minutes for the Clippers Tuesday and didn’t score, but his defense was superb and Clippers coach Doc Rivers singled him out for praise after the game.
▪ The Clippers started two players who were technically once Hornets but never played a minute for the team. Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was drafted by the Hornets with the 11th overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft and then traded to the Clippers for the draft rights to forward Miles Bridges. Harris was drafted by Charlotte with 19th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and then immediately traded to the Milwaukee Bucks as part of the move that brought Bismack Biyombo to Charlotte.
▪ The Hornets’ season-long look back at their history via scoreboard video has generally been a welcome respite during timeouts and included another fun moment Tuesday -- Hugo the mascot’s “Bug on the Windshield” dunk.
▪ This was the Hornets’ final home game before the NBA All-Star break. The team doesn’t return to Spectrum Center until Feb. 22, against Washington.
They said it
“Yeah, wasn’t what we were looking for. I could have come up with something better. Next time, I will work on trying to get the ball where we wanted in a clearer way.” – Hornets coach James Borrego after the game, regarding the team’s troubles in getting a good shot off in the final 4.3 seconds. The Hornets settled for a contested shot from Marvin Williams that was an airball.
C OFFENSE: Charlotte shot the ball decently, with Walker and Jeremy Lamb combining for 54 points.
D DEFENSE: The Hornets seemed powerless to stop the Clippers in the second half from outside, allowing one open three-pointer after another. The Clippers shot an amazing 75 percent (18-for-24) from three-point range for the game.
D COACHING: Losing a 20-point lead at home is never a good thing, and Borrego didn’t draw up a good enough play with 4.3 seconds left and a chance to tie or win the game.