A 121-81 victory Friday against the Orlando Magic at Spectrum Center allowed the Charlotte Hornets’ bench players plenty of time to see significant minutes.
But it was during the first half, when the game was still in the balance, that the subs did their best work.
Guards Brian Roberts, Marco Belinelli and Jeremy Lamb all played key early roles as the Hornets (29-36) began to run away from the Magic (24-42). The Hornets, who led 58-40 at halftime, shot a season-high 59.5 percent from the field and never let the Magic (24-42) off the floor.
Roberts, who finished with 15 points, had 10 at halftime. Belinelli (18 for the game) had six at halftime and Lamb added three.
“That’s kind of what we’ve been trying to do last few weeks,” said Roberts, who made all three of his 3-point attempts. “When the starters come out, we try to boost the energy and keep the ball movement going. That gets kind of contagious.”
The Hornets’ bench isn’t as deep or talented as it was last season, when players like center Al Jefferson and guard Jeremy Lin could usually be counted on to maintain what the starters had established.
“It allows you to sustain your play,” said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. “That’s our No. 1 problem. Your bench has to play well if you want to have a good team. Last year our bench was our absolute strength. This year it hasn’t been. It’s as simple as that.”
The Hornets got 23 points from starting point guard Kemba Walker and a double-double from forward Marvin Williams (12 points, 18 rebounds) in what was the first game of a three-game homestand for a team trying to climb into contention for a berth in the NBA playoffs.
Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: Led the Hornets with 23 points, knocking down five-of-eight 3-pointers.
Marvin Williams: Had 12 rebounds by halftime, finishing with career-high 18 to go with 12 points.
Brian Roberts: Backup point guard kept Hornets momentum going when he came in for Walker, scoring 10 point in the first half.
▪ Former Hornet center Bismack Biyombo, now with the Magic, had a first half he’d probably like to forget. Biyombo, never known for his free-throw shooting, missed his first five from the charity line before finally making one. At the end of the half, Charlotte’s Marvin Williams – an old teammate – threw down a vicious dunk over Biyombo, who was whistled for the foul.
▪ There was a decent-sized crowd at Spectrum Center, impressive because there was a college basketball game on television that a lot of fans were probably interested in.
▪ Power forward Christian Wood scored 14, helping a frontcourt that has seen its depth compromised by injuries to Frank Kaminsky, Miles Plumlee and Johnny O’Bryant.
▪ Clifford said pregame he didn’t know how long O’Bryant, who sprained his ankle Wednesday against Miami, will be out.
▪ The Hornets never trailed, jumping to an 8-0 lead and cruising from there. It was the first wire-to-wire victory for the Hornets this season.
▪ Former Hornets coach Paul Silas was recognized during the game for the recent announcement that he will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Silas was an All-American at Creighton in the early 1960s.
They said it
“Marvin’s on a roll. He’s playing really, really well.” – Clifford.
“We had to keep up the energy of the starters, set the tone and stick with it.” – Lamb, on the play of the bench.
“They were red hot and we were ice cold.” – Magic coach Frank Vogel.
A+ OFFENSE: Any time an NBA team makes nearly 60 percent of its shots, there’s little to argue with.
A DEFENSE: Held the Magic to 40.8 shooting and nullified its 3-point shooters (18.5 percent).
A COACHING: Coaxed a dominant effort during the playoff push.