Protesters outside Barclays Center creating a ruckus about Kyrie Irving not playing due to his unvaccinated status should have probably been more concerned with the Brooklyn Nets actually playing inside the arena.
The Nets fell 111-95 to the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday evening in their home opener to drop to 1-2 on the season.
Charlotte came alive in the second half, outscoring the Nets 61-37 in the final 24 minutes of action while they capitalized on a lightning-quick transition game fueled by Brooklyn miscues. The Hornets created 26 points off turnovers in the win as they move to 3-0 on the season.
Miles Bridges led the Hornets with 32 points while second-year standout LaMelo Ball added 18 points and five assists — though veteran guard Ish Smith played the role of closer with 11 fourth-quarter points to help see the Nets out.
Brooklyn struggled from the floor, shooting just 43.7% from the field despite Kevin Durant’s best efforts. The star forward posted 38 points on 17-of-24 shooting.
The problem was that the rest of the Nets shot a combined 21-for-63 (33.3%) while James Harden, who contributed 15 points and eight assists, battled foul trouble all day.
A 19-9 run to close the half gave the Nets their largest lead of the evening at 10, but the advantage was quickly closed by the Hornets, tying the game at 72 with 3:40 to go in the third.
It was a part of a 14-4 run that throttled the visitors back into the game and put them in the driver’s seat at the start of the fourth quarter.
Down six with 7:14 to go, Harden was called for his fifth foul of the night — a charge on Bridges to force him to the bench. Twenty seconds later, a dunk from Cody Martin put the Hornets up eight, prompting Steve Nash to call timeout.
While Durant did his best to keep the Nets in it with nine straight points, but Smith piloted the Hornets while Ball had an extended run on the bench.
Charlotte’s lead swelled to 11 with 3:18 to go after Smith — who had knocked down a 17-footer from the left corner, caught the Nets defense napping with a fake shot that opened Kelly Oubre Jr. under the basket for an easy lay-up.