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Clippers swarm Hornets late, win 120-106

The Clippers finally stopped turning the ball over in the fourth to pull away.

Charlotte Hornets v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Terance Mann saw an opening to the basket. He took a dribble, and he took flight.

That jam was the exclamation point of a 22-0 run spanning six minutes in the fourth quarter, as the Clippers completely shut down the Charlotte offense to erase a nine-point deficit and earn their fourth straight win, 120-106.

The run began with a flagrant foul by Miles Bridges on Ivica Zubac. Zubac made both free throws, Luke Kennard followed with a 3-pointer, and the Clippers never looked back. They stopped turning the ball over, limited the Hornets to one shot per possession, and made this one easy by the end.

Six players scored in double figures, and four players had at least nine 3-point attempts, as the Hornets couldn’t solve the Clippers’ math problem.

It was exciting late, but the Clippers remain notoriously slow starters. They entered tonight’s game 23rd in net rating and immediately got coaxed into a track meet with the Hornets, who rank third in the league in pace. That went better for Charlotte than it did for the home team, as the Hornets built up a 13-point lead, mostly by virtue of getting more shots up.

LaMelo Ball, in particular, seemed right at home. He hit five of his first seven shots en route to 13 points to lead all scorers in the first. Nicolas Batum led the Clippers against his former team with eight on perfect 3-of-3 shooting.

Kennard kept the Clippers in contact with two threes in the final minute of the first, and the second unit continued to pour it on, finally taking advantage of Charlotte’s poor defense. The Clippers got the ball popping, got the Hornets into rotation, and found the gaps to make the defense pay, though mostly inside the arc.

Paul George was wonderful with his floor game, even if his three ball wasn’t falling. George made some beautiful passes in the half court out of the pick-and-roll, leading to six assists. He also was a willing screener, setting a number of back screens to create havoc for the Charlotte defense.

Had the Clippers not gone dry from 3-point range for 11 minutes, they could have been up double digits heading into halftime. Even so, two 3-pointers from Batum and Mann in the final 14 seconds of the period was enough to give L.A. a lead at the break.

The offense got a little sloppy in the third quarter, as the Clippers made some bonkers passing decisions. George threw an alley-oop to Eric Bledsoe on a 3-on-1 break that was seemingly two feet short of its desired target. Reggie Jackson lofted an inbounds pass from the baseline that made it all the way to halfcourt, past any Clipper, resulting in a Charlotte lay-up.

Those gaffes undid the good work done by L.A’s defense, which was great in the third, and stellar in the half court. Batum in particular was special, with multiple deflections and a block on a corner 3-pointer, along with animated directions to get the rest of his teammates on the same page defensively.

Alas, nine turnovers led to 17 points, and the Hornets pulled to within two despite shooting 37 percent from the field in the third. Once the Clippers stopped turning the ball over — they had two in the final quarter and 18 before that — there was nothing Charlotte could do. The Clippers poured it on, and a game that featured eight lead changes in the first five minutes had none in the final five.