Hornets fall short in home opener as Pelicans prevail 124-112

New Orleans Pelicans center Willy Hernangomez (9) defends on a shot by Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 21, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

CHARLOTTE — Two nights after blowing out San Antonio in the NBA season opener, the Charlotte Hornets came back down to earth in Friday night’s home opener against New Orleans, succumbing to a 124-112 loss in the Spectrum Center.

The Pelicans (2–0) catapulted to an early 19-7 lead that the Hornets (1-1) trimmed to a ten-point gap at halftime. After making a steady comeback attempt throughout the entire game, Charlotte came within two points of New Orleans midway through the fourth quarter before the Pelicans pulled away for the victory.

Gordon Hayward had a team-high 26 points for the Hornets on 12-of-19 shooting along with seven assists while Terry Rozier compiled 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.

New Orleans center Jonas Valanciunas led all players on the court with 30 points and 17 rebounds, doing much of his damage in the paint against a Charlotte team that allowed many centers to thrive similarly last season.

Brandon Ingram had 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists as Zion Williamson was largely contained in his offensive efforts, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting. 

“We did a good job getting back in it but the bigger thing is just the fouling — just undisciplined basketball,” Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. “They got to the bonus early in the third quarter, and they just started posting the ball and we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do. Every time the ball went in there, we were fouling and hacking…It’s bad basketball is what it is. I don’t care if it’s the second game of the year. You got to call it what it is.”

Clifford pointed to the disparity in free-throw shooting for both teams — the Pelicans hit 32 of their 37 foul shots as the Hornets were limited to just 11 makes from 14 attempts. 

“We played hard. I mean, they’re good and obviously they played well. We were right there. You can’t foul and you can’t be minus 21 from the free throw line and beat a good team. You can’t beat any team in this league. It’s just not gonna happen.”

Kelly Oubre Jr, starting in place of LaMelo Ball — who is still sidelined with an ankle injury he sustained in preseason — added 15 points and four rebounds for Charlotte while Josh McDaniels brought in 14 points and five rebounds off the bench. 

P.J. Washington struggled against New Orleans after what was a strong opening-night performance, making just four of his 13 shots.

Additionally, second-year player James Bouknight’s shooting woes continued as he missed all five shot attempts; Bouknight is 0-for-10 from the field to start the season.

The Hornets will look to gain their second win of the year as they travel to Atlanta (2-0) for a Sunday night rematch against the Hawks team that erased their playoff hopes back in April’s Play-In Tournament game.