Hornets top Spurs 100-97 in first game since Ball’s injury

San Antonio Spurs' Keldon Johnson (3) attempts to steal the ball from Charlotte Hornets' Malik Monk during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, March 22, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)
San Antonio Spurs' Keldon Johnson (3) attempts to steal the ball from Charlotte Hornets' Malik Monk during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, March 22, 2021, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – Charlotte won without the free-wheeling and fast-paced offense the Hornets enjoyed with LaMelo Ball, though they would rather have their rookie point guard back.

Gordon Hayward scored 27 points, Terry Rozier added 24 and Charlotte held on to beat the San Antonio Spurs 100-97 on Monday night in its first game since losing Ball to a wrist injury.

“We are definitely going to miss him,” said Rozier, who refers to Ball as his “little brother.”

“But we’ve just to got to adjust. This is what we’ve got. He’s a special player, a great player, but this is part of the NBA. Not move on, but we’ve just got to make it happen.”

Ball suffered a fractured right wrist Saturday after a hard fall against the Los Angeles Clippers. Regarded as the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors, Ball is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

“I think we all feel for Melo,” Hayward said. “It was nice for us to be able to a get a win like that in our first game without him. A lot of people stepped up. We all wish him a speedy recovery. He is truly important to this team.”

The Spurs had won four of five but struggled to contain the Hornets’ frontcourt.

Bismack Biyombo and Malik Monk added 11 points apiece and P.J. Washington added 10 points and 13 rebounds as Charlotte snapped a three-game skid.

DeMar DeRozan had 28 points and Derrick White added 21 for the Spurs to open a nine-game homestand.

The Spurs tied the game at 93 with 1:45 remaining following a 3-pointer by White and a three-point play by DeRozan. Rozier hit a step-back 27-footer to give the Hornets a lead they would not relinquish again.

“They really challenged our mental toughness and physical toughness,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “I think this team really grew tonight. We withstood that. This was not a finesse win. This was not a transition, knocking down 3, type of win for us. We had to gut this one out with physicality and toughness. You really need that along the way.”

The Hornets are 16-0 when leading after three quarters.

“It’s really impressive for such a young team to find ways to win like that,” Hayward said. “I think we’re fighters. It’s nice to have people that hit clutch shots.”

San Antonio held Charlotte to 19 points in the third quarter and the defensive push continued into the fourth when White’s jumper put the Spurs up 76-74 for their first lead since White’s game-opening 3-pointer.

“We played a very good second half, but we didn’t play a good first half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “We looked like a team that just got back off the road. And sometimes that’s the formula in the NBA. That first game coming back is a tough one. I was hoping we were over that, but the first half was a killer.”

The defensive effort was needed after Charlotte used a balanced attack to offset Ball’s loss in building a 12-point lead.

Ball’s absence was evident early as Charlotte was held to two fast-break points in the first quarter. The Hornets were fifth in the league in fast-break points at 15.1 per game but were held to five against the Spurs.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Charlotte held San Antonio to 45 points in the first half after allowing 47 points in the second quarter of a 122-114 home loss to the Spurs on Feb. 14. … Cody Zeller missed his second straight game with left shoulder bursitis. Borrego is hopeful Zeller will be available Wednesday at Houston.

Spurs: San Antonio point guard Dejounte Murray arrived wearing Becky Hammon’s Colorado State jersey complete with her surname and No. 25. The Spurs assistant coach starred at Colorado State before playing 16 years in the WNBA equally between the New York Liberty and San Antonio Stars. Rudy Gay paid tribute to Rebecca Lobo by wearing the Connecticut All-American’s No. 50 jersey and DeRozan wore Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller’s No. 31 jersey from Southern California. … The nine-game homestand is the longest in franchise history, surpassing the seven straight home games the Spurs had in 2012.

UP NEXT

Hornets: Visit the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

Spurs: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.