CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Detroit Pistons beat the Hornets 141-134 in overtime Wednesday night, spoiling LaMelo Ball's return to the floor and prompting Charlotte coach Steve Clifford to lay into his team after the game for only caring about "how many points we score."
Ball, playing in only his fourth game of the season, finished with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting and 11 assists in his first game since Nov. 16 due to a sprained left ankle. But he fouled out with 29.6 seconds left in regulation, and his presence was missed in overtime as the Hornets were outscored 14-7.
The 21-year-old All-Star point guard looked rusty early on with five of his first six 3-point attempts hitting the front rim.
"It was legs and stuff, just getting back into it,'' Ball said.
But he began to heat up early in the fourth quarter, knocking down back-to-back 3s, including a fadeaway in the left corner, to trim Detroit's lead to five. Ball then drove the lane and dished to Jalen McDaniels up top for a 3-pointer to tie it with just under 10 minutes left in regulation.
"He's really talented and we had three quarters scoring 30 or more,'' Hornets center Mason Plumlee said. "It's great to have him back.''
With the game tied late, Bojan Bogdanovic missed a fallaway jumper and the Hornets grabbed the rebound and called a timeout with 1.3 seconds left in regulation to set up a side inbounds play. But Terry Rozier's off-balance 3 from the corner rattled around the rim and out at the buzzer, sending the game to overtime.
Detroit dominated in OT with Ball out of the game.
Clifford ripped into his team after the game, expressing his dissatisfaction with the defensive effort.
"Until we care about something besides how many points we score, we're not going to win much,'' Clifford said in an opening statement before leaving without taking questions from reporters. "We are playing no defense -- not one guy. There's not a bright spot. We don't run back on defense, we don't guard the ball, our pick-and-roll stuff ... all we care about is scoring. That's it.''
Said Ball: "We have to lock in on defense and figure that out. As soon as we do, we will turn this thing around.''
Ball was sidelined for 11 games after reinjuring his left ankle Nov. 16 when he stepped on a fan's foot while trying to save a ball from going out of bounds. He initially sprained his ankle when he stepped on Anthony Gill's foot in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards, causing him to miss the first 13 games of the regular season. Ball returned Nov. 12 but reinjured the ankle in his third game back.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.