Jeremy Lamb was the star again, and the Charlotte Hornets remained alive in the playoff race with a thrilling 113-111 win over the visiting Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Lamb hit a 3-pointer with 3.3 seconds remaining to give the Hornets the lead, and then Charlotte held on when Kawhi Leonard's 3-point attempt wedged between the rim and the backboard with one second remaining.
This was the first meeting of the teams since the Hornets stunned the Raptors 115-114 in Toronto on March 24, on Lamb's miracle bank shot from behind the half-court line at the final buzzer. The Hornets (37-42) had lost three of their previous four and were in a total "must-win" mode Friday night. They trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half but led by as many as nine early in the fourth quarter before Lamb's last-minute heroics.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 29 points. Lamb scored 22, and Frank Kaminsky also scored 22 while grabbing 13 rebounds. Leonard led the Raptors with 29 points. Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Kyle Lowry scored 16 points and handed out 11 assists. Pascal Siakam added 14 points, and Fred VanVleet had 12.
The Raptors (56-24) came into the game locked into the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, with Milwaukee clinching the No. 1 spot on Thursday. The Hornets, who have three regular-season games left, remain in the No. 10 spot in the Eastern Conference standings. They are two games behind the Brooklyn Nets and Detroit Pistons, who are tied for seventh place, and one game behind the ninth-place Miami Heat. Each of those teams has three games left, while the Orlando Magic have a half-game lead for the sixth spot but are down to two games.
The Raptors led 34-33 following one quarter after racing to a 19-5 lead early. Toronto then used an 11-0 run late in the second quarter to take a 65-57 halftime lead. Charlotte was on top 90-86 after three-quarters thanks to nine straight points in one stretch from Lamb. Ultimately, there were 17 lead changes. Siakam's 3-pointer gave Toronto a 109-108 lead with 39.2 seconds left, then Walker hit a layup to give the Hornets a 110-109 lead. Leonard drove for a basket with 15 seconds left before Lamb hit his game-winner. Both teams will be off Saturday before playing Sunday. The Raptors will host Miami while the Hornets will play at Detroit.
(With inputs from agencies.)