Year-2 leap? LaMelo Ball torches Pacers as Hornets rally from 23-point hole

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CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 20: T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers and LaMelo Ball #2 of the Charlotte Hornets talk during a timeout during the first half of their game at Spectrum Center on October 20, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

NBA players commonly make a big jump from their rookie seasons to Year 2.

LaMelo Ball’s ready for his All-Star turn if Wednesday’s season-opener is a sign of things to come. The reigning Rookie of the Year had a career night from 3-point distance while leading the Hornets from a 23-point deficit to a 123-122 win over the Indiana Pacers. 

Ball finished with a team-high 31 points to go with nine rebounds and seven assists. He connected on a career-high seven 3-pointers on nine attempts in the process. He did all his damage in just 29 minutes.

Charlotte looked bound for an 0-1 start as Indiana opened up a 75-59 halftime lead behind a 22-point first half from Domantas Sabonis. The Pacers scored the first seven points of the third quarter to extend their lead to 82-59 in what was looking like a runaway win. 

But the Hornets weren’t done. They responded with a 47-17 run of their own and took their first lead of the game late in the third quarter at 85-84. They extended the lead to double digits at 106-96, but the Pacers mounted a rally of their own to force a back-and-forth finish down the stretch. 

Torrey Craig hit a pair of free throws to give the Pacers a 122-121 lead with 12.4 seconds remaining. But P.J. Washington answered with two free throws of his own after being fouled in a battle for a loose ball under the Hornets basket. Washington’s foul shots secured the final 123-122 edge for Charlotte. 

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