Hornets’ Gordon Hayward hopes hot hand continues vs. Pelicans

NBA

Hornets’ Gordon Hayward hopes hot hand continues vs. Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans lost their last two games because they finished poorly.

Gordon Hayward made sure the Charlotte Hornets didn’t have a similar problem in their last game.

Hayward is coming off a career-best, 44-point performance in the Hornets’ 102-94 victory at Atlanta on Wednesday and looks to stay hot when Charlotte (3-5) visits New Orleans (4-4) on Friday.

On Monday, the Pelicans squandered a 10-point lead in the final two-plus minutes of regulation and lost to Indiana. On Wednesday, they lost to Oklahoma City, 111-110, when George Hill made two free throws to give the Thunder a one-point lead with 12 seconds left, and Nickeill Alexander-Walker missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“The bottom line is we didn’t play any defense,” New Orleans coach Stan Van Gundy said after Wednesday’s loss. “You give up 27 fast-break points to a team that came in averaging seven and a half fast-break points, we don’t need to talk about anything else.

“Dig in, and play the game defensively. We scored 110 points. If you can’t win scoring 110 points, there’s something wrong.”

The Pelicans scored 106 in regulation before losing to the Pacers 118-116.

“The book is out on us,” Van Gundy said. “Run us because we will not run back. We’re not making the effort. We came out of training camp making a great effort defensively. Part of that had to do with the fact that we were drilling every day, so we were into the effort part of it.”

The Hornets had lost three games in a row before Hayward’s performance ended the streak.

“I was proud of Gordy,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “He understood we needed pressure taken off our offense tonight, and he took the pressure.

“What I saw tonight was his aggression — from start to finish. I thought he was fantastic. He set the tone from the start.”

Hayward, who tied his career-high for points in any half when he scored 25 in the first half, finished 15 of 25 on field-goal attempts, including four of nine 3-pointers.

“I never scored 40 in high school,” Hayward said. “People were finding me all night.”

Charlotte’s defense held Atlanta to a season-low 11 points in the first quarter.

Hayward, who joined the Hornets on a four-year, $120 million contract last November, is trying to get his career back on track after an injury-plagued three seasons with the Boston Celtics.

He suffered a season-ending foot and ankle injury in his first game with Boston in 2017 and missed a total of 142 games during his tenure.

“With everything that has gone on for me in my career injury-wise,” Hayward said, “I’ve put in a lot of (rehab) work — (the career-high) was a lot of fun.”

–Field Level Media

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