Charlotte Hornets

How the Hornets’ first-quarter explosion on offense sparked win over the Hawks

Charlotte Hornets coach on Cody Zeller

Hornets coach James Borrego moved center Cody Zeller back into the starting lineup Saturday. Why it was time to do that, after a couple of games off the bench following Zeller’s return from a broken hand.
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Hornets coach James Borrego moved center Cody Zeller back into the starting lineup Saturday. Why it was time to do that, after a couple of games off the bench following Zeller’s return from a broken hand.

He’s not quite at that crazy level earlier this season when he scored 100-plus points over two games, but Kemba Walker is on quite a roll.

Walker finished with 37 points in leading the Charlotte Hornets to a 129-120 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. This was Walker’s fourth consecutive game of 30 or more points and his 17th such game this season.

Kemba vs Hawks.JPG
Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) passes the ball as Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young (11) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore) John Bazemore AP

The Hornets led this game by as many as 20 points. They scored 73 in the first half - their most points in any half this season that did not include overtime.

Walker had plenty of help offensively Saturday: Marvin Williams added a season-high 27 points and Jeremy Lamb scored 24.

The Hornets broke a two-game losing streak, improving to 27-28.

Former Wake Forest star John Collins scored 21 for the Hawks, and rookie Trae Young added 20 points and 11 assists.

Three who mattered

Williams: Fine shooting, and a first-half dunk that looked like he was a freshman at UNC again.

Lamb: In addition to his scoring, he was very active defensively Saturday in the passing lanes.

Young: The Hawks’ rookie keeps demonstrating he’s much more than just a scorer.

Observations

▪ Hornets coach James Borrego decided to move center Cody Zeller back into the starting lineup Saturday, after Zeller played his first couple of games off the bench in his return from a broken right hand.

▪ Hornets veteran point guard Tony Parker missed his second consecutive game with a back strain. That was no surprise, but the bigger question is whether 36-year-old Parker will play against either the Indiana Pacers Monday or Orlando Magic Thursday. Parker has a major role, as evidenced by the Hornets going 0-8 in games he didn’t play before Saturday. But skipping those two games would give him a time cushion through the All-Star break to heal.

▪ Young is seventh in the NBA in assists at 7.4 per game, and Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce says Young is posting those numbers on pure talent. Pierce says Young will eventually average about 11 per game after a couple of seasons of situational experience against NBA defensive coverages.

▪ The Hornets’ 46 first-quarter points Saturday were the most in any quarter this season for them. They made their first eight shots from the field before a miss by Nic Batum, and finished that quarter 8-of-11 from 3-point range.

Worth mentioning

▪ The Hornets are in the middle of four consecutive road games, which is a function of having to vacate Spectrum Center so the NBA can change over the arena for All-Star events next weekend.

▪ With Zeller back and up to speed, it might push Willy Hernangomez out of the rotation for a while.

▪ When Parker doesn’t play, it clearly affects the efficiency of the Hornets’ entire second unit.

They said it

“We need every game possible (with) Tony in the lineup. Not having him has hurt us, particularly in that Clippers game at home.” when the Hornets blew a big second-half lead– Hornets coach James Borrego on Parker’s injury.

“He’s closed us out in fourth quarters. Maybe his efficiency in the fourth quarter has exceeded what I expected ” – Borrego on veteran Parker’s value.

Report card

A+ OFFENSE: Obviously, any offense looks great when all the starters are making shots, but the ball movement was some of the best the Hornets have had this season.

C+ DEFENSE: The Hawks’ interior scoring was more evidence of an ongoing issue.

B+ COACHING: .Ball movement was Borrego’s top target for improvement this season. Saturday was about as good as they’ve been in that area.

HORNETS 129, HAWKS 120

Charlotte

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

F

Pt

Batum

34:37

2-5

0-0

4

2

6

Williams

34:51

12-16

0-0

3

3

27

Zeller

25:59

3-5

4-6

8

2

10

Lamb

36:24

8-14

4-4

6

1

24

Walker

36:57

13-27

2-2

1

2

37

Kidd-Gilchrist

29:01

5-5

1-2

3

3

11

Bridges

16:28

3-7

0-0

5

1

6

Graham

11:03

1-4

1-2

3

2

4

Monk

10:17

1-4

2-2

2

0

4

Biyombo

4:23

0-1

0-0

2

1

0

Totals

240:00

48-88

14-18

37

17

129

Percentages: FG .545, FT .778. 3-Point Goals: 19-42, .452 (Walker 9-17, Lamb 4-7, Williams 3-7, Batum 2-2, Graham 1-4, Zeller 0-1, Bridges 0-2, Monk 0-2). Team Rebounds: 7. Team Turnovers: 13 (17 PTS). Blocked Shots: 7 (Lamb 2, Biyombo, Bridges, Kidd-Gilchrist, Williams, Zeller). Turnovers: 13 (Monk 3, Walker 3, Batum 2, Kidd-Gilchrist 2, Zeller 2, Lamb). Steals: 12 (Lamb 3, Batum 2, Bridges 2, Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk, Walker, Williams, Zeller).

Atlanta

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

F

Pt

Collins

35:10

8-12

5-6

5

5

21

Prince

27:00

3-7

0-0

3

1

7

Dedmon

27:38

5-7

0-2

7

1

14

Huerter

34:20

7-9

0-0

4

3

17

Young

28:12

8-15

0-0

1

1

20

Bazemore

19:54

5-12

2-3

1

1

13

Lin

19:48

5-9

2-2

2

2

13

Bembry

14:46

1-5

0-0

4

1

2

Spellman

11:52

0-3

2-2

1

0

2

Len

10:35

2-4

3-4

7

1

7

Carter

10:27

2-3

0-0

1

2

4

Anderson

0:18

0-0

0-0

0

0

0

Totals

240:00

46-86

14-19

36

18

120

Percentages: FG .535, FT .737. 3-Point Goals: 14-33, .424 (Dedmon 4-6, Young 4-6, Huerter 3-3, Lin 1-3, Bazemore 1-4, Prince 1-4, Bembry 0-1, Len 0-1, Collins 0-2, Spellman 0-3). Team Rebounds: 9. Team Turnovers: 18 (27 PTS). Blocked Shots: 3 (Bazemore, Collins, Len). Turnovers: 18 (Collins 4, Prince 4, Young 4, Bazemore 3, Huerter 2, Lin). Steals: 10 (Lin 2, Young 2, Bazemore, Bembry, Carter, Collins, Dedmon, Huerter).

Charlotte

46

27

33

23

129

Atlanta

31

37

18

34

120

Att.—15,048 (18,118). T—2:04.

Officials—Matt Myers, Scott Wall, John Goble

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.

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