Year-2 leap? LaMelo Ball torches Pacers as Hornets rally from 23-point hole

NBA

NBA players commonly make a big jump from their rookie seasons to Year 2.

LaMelo Ball‘s ready for his All-Star turn if Wednesday’s season-opener is a sign of things to come. The reigning Rookie of the Year had a career night from 3-point distance while leading the Hornets from a 23-point deficit to a 123-122 win over the Indiana Pacers

Ball finished with a team-high 31 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. He connected on a career-high seven 3-pointers on nine attempts in the process. He did all his damage in just 29 minutes.

Sabonis, Pacers dominate early

Charlotte looked bound for an 0-1 start as Indiana opened up a 75-59 halftime lead behind a 22-point first half from Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to extend their lead to 82-59 in what was looking like a runaway win. 

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 20: T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers and LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets talk during a timeout during the first half of their game at Spectrum Center on October 20, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers and LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

But the Hornets weren’t done. They responded with a 47-17 run of their own and took their first lead of the game late in the third quarter at 85-84. They extended the lead to double digits at 106-96, but the Pacers mounted a rally of their own to force a back-and-forth finish down the stretch. 

Torrey Craig hit a pair of free throws to give the Pacers a 122-121 lead with 12.4 seconds remaining. But P.J. Washington answered with two free throws of his own after being fouled in a battle for a loose ball under the Hornets basket. Washington’s foul shots secured the final 123-122 edge for Charlotte. 

Gordon Hayward joined the Hornets heroics with 27 points and five rebounds, including a stretch of 10 straight Hornets points in a critical fourth-quarter stretch that saw the lead change hand three times. 

Sabonis finished with 33 points and 15 points, while Malcolm Brogdon added 28 points and 11 assists and Chris Duarte scored 27. But it wasn’t enough for Indiana to avoid an 0-1 start. 

The Hornets played without starting guard Terry Rozier, who was ruled out shortly before tipoff with a lingering ankle sprain. 

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