LaMelo Ball scored 31 points and P.J. Washington sank two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining to lift the host Charlotte Hornets to a 123-122 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday in the season opener for both teams.
Torrey Craig drained a pair of free throws to give the Pacers a 122-121 lead with 12.4 seconds left. Craig’s foul at the other end of the floor set the stage for Washington, who sank his two shots from the charity stripe.
Washington then provided aggressive defense and forced Domantas Sabonis into taking an off-balance shot that caromed off the rim as time expired.
Ball, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, scored 12 points as part of the Hornets’ spirited 24-0 run during the third quarter.
Gordon Hayward scored 27 points for Charlotte, which was facing Indiana for the first time since dropping a 144-117 decision in a play-in tournament game on May 18.
Sabonis collected 33 points and 15 rebounds for the Pacers, who squandered a 23-point lead in the first game of Rick Carlisle’s second tenure as the team’s head coach.
Malcolm Brogdon added 28 points and rookie Chris Duarte highlighted his NBA debut by scoring 11 of his 27 points in the first quarter.
Indiana’s advantage ballooned to 82-59 after Duarte drained a 3-pointer as part of a 7-0 run to begin the third quarter. Charlotte provided a swift response by scoring 24 straight points during a larger 28-2 run, with Ball erupting for 12 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. sinking a 3-pointer to give the Hornets their first lead at 85-84.
Charlotte built a 10-point advantage before Sabonis and Brogdon combined to score all of their team’s points in a 14-3 run, giving Indiana a 110-109 lead.
Sabonis made all six of his shots from the field and both free-throw attempts to stake Indiana to a 23-14 with 4:57 remaining in the first quarter. Duarte capped his 11-point quarter with a pair of late 3-pointers to push the Pacers’ advantage to 38-27.
Ball answered with a pair of 3-pointers to begin the second quarter before Sabonis responded in kind. Duarte’s step-back 3-pointer and ensuing driving layup pushed the Pacers’ lead to 57-40 with 5:20 to play.
–Field Level Media