Nic Batum hit two free throws with 18 seconds left to secure the Charlotte Hornets’ 99-95 victory over the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center Friday.
The victory improved the Hornets to 4-1.
Point guard Kemba Walker finished with a season-high 30 points in his return to his hometown. Batum added 18 points and nine rebounds.
Hornets forward Marvin Williams, who struggled with his jump shot most of this game, swished a 3 with just over a minute left to extend Charlotte’s lead to four. That forced the Nets to regroup in a timeout, down two possessions.
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Nets forward Trevor Booker trimmed the Brooklyn deficit to 87-86 with 2 minutes, 49 seconds left on a driving layup. The Nets’ possession was set up by a Cody Zeller jump shot that was wide left.
The Hornets entered this game on a four-game winning streak versus the Nets, having swept the four-game series last season.
Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: He almosts always shines playing in his hometown of New York City.
Spencer Hawes: Provided strong minutes as the backup center with Roy Hibbert (sore knee) still out.
Trevor Booker: He provided the Nets with a much-needed toughness.
▪ Hornets center Cody Zeller entered Friday’s game with the third-highest field-goal percentage in the NBA (among players with at least 20 attempts). Zeller made 16 of his first 25 shots (64 percent). Only Atlanta’s Mike Muscala and Philadelphia’s Richaun Holmes had high field-goal percentages this season.
▪ Former Hornet Jeremy Lin signed a three-season, $36 million contract with the Nets in July. He missed Friday’s game with a hamstring strain. Lin spoke fondly pre-game of his season in Charlotte:
"It was refreshing in a lot of ways, coming off a down year. I was on a team that really cared about each other and I learned a lot from Cliff. That’s what NBA basketball, and basketball in general, should be about."
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford said pre-game he’s suggested to Nic Batum he cut to the basket more. Clifford said that was a bigger part of Batum’s game when first came to the NBA.
▪ Clifford has expressed concern about slow starts, and Friday continued the trend: The Hornets trailed by as many as 13 points in the first quarter before tying the game at 23-23.
▪ It took until 11 seconds left for any Hornet other than Kemba Walker and Nic Batum to score in the first quarter.
▪ Hornets power forward Marvin Williams went scoreless in the first half on 0-of-8 shooting from the field.
▪ The Nets started rookie Isaiah Whitehead at Lin’s point guard position. He committed three quick fouls in the first half.
▪ Friday was the fourth consecutive game when Walker scored 20 or more points.
C OFFENSE: There were long stretches of the first half when only Kemba Walker and Nic Batum could make shots.
B+ DEFENSE: Some great rotations, particularly in taking the lead in the third quarter.
B COACHING: These slow starts are becoming quite problematic.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell