Hayward shines as Hornets hand Nets first loss of NBA season

by Rebecca BRYAN

LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Gordon Hayward scored 28 points as the Charlotte Hornets cooled off red-hot Brooklyn, handing the Nets their first defeat of the young NBA season 106-104 on Sunday.

Terry Rozier — Hayward’s former teammate in Boston — added 19 points and P.J. Washington chipped in 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Hornets, who held the Nets to 42.7% shooting.

“Unbelievable win for us,” said Hayward, who joined the Hornets from Boston in the abbreviated off-season. “Especially after dropping the first two, to come out here on a back to back and beat Brooklyn — just proud of our effort, man, proud of our defense.

“We finally got it together it seemed like on that end.”

Kevin Durant led the Nets with 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 25 for Brooklyn, which had become the first club since the 2008-09 Lakers to win their first two games by 20 or more points.

It looked like the Nets might pull out a close one when they erased a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit, twice trimming the gap to two points with less than three minutes to play.

Durant missed a fadeaway jumper with 7.4 seconds left and Rozier made two free throws that sealed the win.

The Hornets were playing without center Cody Zeller, who broke his left hand in their season opener.

Brooklyn guard Spencer Dinwiddie departed in the third quarter with a right knee strain and didn’t return.

Referee J.T. Orr departed with a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter.

Injuries were making an impact around the league early in the season, which started on December 22 after the shortest off-season in NBA history.

The Minnesota Timberwolves were without star Karl-Anthony Towns for their clash with the reigning champion Lakers in Los Angeles, announcing before the game he had dislocated his left wrist against the Utah Jazz on Saturday and would be evaluated weekly.

The Lakers were without star forward Anthony Davis, who was nursing a calf contusion suffered in their season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Clippers and aggravated in a Christmas Day win over the Dallas Mavericks.

The Mavericks took full advantage of the absence of injured Clippers star Kawhi Leonard in a 124-73 rout of the LA team.

Mavs point guard Luka Doncic scored 18 of his 24 points in the first half when Dallas powered to an NBA record 50-point halftime lead — 77-27.

Josh Richardson added 21 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. chipped in 18 for the Mavs, who had opened the season with two defeats.

“Everything was clicking on all cylinders,” Hardaway said, adding that the Mavericks didn’t realize how big their halftime lead was until they were in the locker room.

Coach Rick Carlisle said the key for the Mavericks going forward will be to maintain the intensity they showed in the first half consistently.

“The challenge is to maintain that level of competitiveness,” he said. “Our guys established a standard for collective toughness and will that we need to find a way to maintain.”

The Cleveland Cavaliers, with 24 points, 14 rebounds and three steals from Andre Drummond, cruised to a 118-94 victory over a Philadelphia 76ers team missing big-man Joel Embiid because of back trouble.

Collin Sexton added 22 points for the Cavaliers, who are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since the 2016-17 campaign.

© Agence France-Presse