It’s not debatable and certainly verifiable with high-definition footage. Still, Terry Rozier isn’t about to proclaim anything.
Well, not forcefully anyway.
“Yeah, I guess,” Rozier said Wednesday night. “I’ll let ya’ll decide that.”
The results are in: Rozier is officially out of his slump. His season-best 35 points in the Charlotte Hornets’ 116-108 win over Indiana at Gainbridge Fieldhouse is further proof.
And for one night at least, the Hornets’ high-scoring backcourt was in effect again, propelling them to a fifth straight victory over the Pacers and perhaps giving Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis a taste of what they could be paired with if their current employer swung a deal with Charlotte. A combined 56 points by Rozier and LaMelo Ball made it easier to stomach the absence of two key players in Miles Bridges and PJ Washington, who were missing their second straight game after landing in the league’s health and safety protocols.
There haven’t been many of these occasions this season thanks in part to Rozier’s slow start paired with the four games he missed due to health and safety protocols. Their roles in helping the Hornets (19-17) close out Indiana offered a glimpse of what could be to come once more.
“It’s going to be huge,” Rozier said. “I think it starts with how well we get along off the court and when we are on the court it’s just like night and day. We just go out there and just play off each other and have fun. He’s a hell of a player to play next to, so I just enjoy it every night and continue to grow with him.”
Taking matters almost into his own hands, Rozier accounted for 65.4% of the Hornets’ offensive production in the fourth quarter. His 13 points, pair of assists and four points created off assists catapulted the Hornets to their third consecutive win, allowing them to continue to put that rough patch they were entangled in further in the rearview mirror.
As for Rozier’s backcourt partner, Ball nearly posted a triple-double with his 21 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. He was especially on target in the first half, tossing in 13 points to go with eight rebounds and seven assists. He tied a career-high with five offensive rebounds and had an efficient, controlled outing that steadied them perfectly, even when an 18-point lead dwindled down to four late in the fourth quarter.
“Melo’s creativity is always there,” coach James Borrego said. “It’s trying to pull him back at times. It’s a little bit of balance with him. But I thought he controlled the game there in the fourth quarter, got us some good looks. He found the open guys, he found the hot hand with Terry and I thought Terry was fantastic. The biggest play of the game to me was the 50-50 ball, the jump ball. Cody Martin goes to get it. The 50-50 ball could have gone in either direction. He gets it, that jump ball leads to a Terry three. I thought that was the biggest, if not one of the biggest, plays of the game.”
Chalk it up as simply another day at the office for Rozier of late. He’s averaging 24.7 points in his last four games, a sign he’s returning to form.
“That’s T-Ro,” Ball said. “The man can always hoop so it was just there and when he’s hitting like that, I just need to give him the rock and let him go. So we were pretty much doing that tonight and as you can see, he was going.”
And going. And going. Kind of like the Energizer Bunny constantly beating that drum. Rozier’s intensity and activity level, paired with Ball’s spirited minutes, put the Hornets in prime position to finish off their final game of the calendar year on the right note.
“I love the backcourt play tonight,” Borrego said. “They battled on the board. For Terry and Melo to each have seven defensive rebounds, it speaks to their energy and effort, their commitment to that end of the floor. We are trying to make strides now defensively. We are pushing aggressively on the defensive end, we are pushing aggressively on the board. And they’ve set the tone.
“To have seven defensive rebounds by Melo and Terry says they’ve bought in. They are trying to do the right things defensively. I think they are leading the charge there and those guys are a significant part of our defense if we are going to turn it. So really proud of their effort tonight.”
If nothing else, it provides them with yet another set of blueprints to roll up and tuck away in their back pocket for reference later.
“It’s just me and him locking in, saying we are going to play defense,” Ball said. “That helps, obviously, if one player is going to play defense. It just goes through the whole team. Next player wants to play, next player wants to play, next player wants to play. So it’s like a virus.”