At least the Hornets will go into the All-Star break with a nice taste in their mouths.
Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic, which Charlotte eventually won 104-102, started out poorly for both teams. It took Kemba Walker nearly 10 minutes to make his first basket, and almost everyone was struggling.
And then the reserves, who have been a point of contention most of this season for Charlotte, came into the game. Instead of letting a lead slip away, they held the game steady until the starters re-entered. Once they did, the Hornets – led by Dwight Howard’s 10 straight points in the third – built up a 12-point cushion.
Only, that didn’t last. The Magic rallied, the Hornets went ice-cold, and the two teams were trading buckets with two minutes left to play.
Fortunately for Hornets fans, Walker and Nic Batum each hit 3-pointers with less than a minute and a half left to save the game, sending the Hornets off on their break with a hard-fought victory.
Three who mattered
Jeremy Lamb: With the Hornets starting backcourt struggling from the jump, Lamb provided a lift with his off-ball movement and aggressiveness (and 15 points).
Marreese Speights: The reserve big man was practically the Magic’s only second-team scorer, and the Hornets still let him get 16.
Dwight Howard: His 36th double-double this season (22 points, 13 rebounds), but more impressive was a third quarter stretch with 10 straight.
▪ The Magic were playing without forward Aaron Gordon, and the Hornets’ Marvin Williams took advantage of that early. Williams scored all six of his points in the first, but he also made a difference by not settling for bad looks.
▪ Charlotte’s assist numbers were nice on Wednesday, but had players been able to knock down a few more shots, they would have been ridiculous. The Hornets assisted on 26 of 38 made field-goal attempts, with Nic Batum’s seven leading the way.
▪ The Hornets only had a one-point lead at the half thanks to some sloppy defense right before intermission, but that changed drastically after halftime. Getting in the Magic’s passing lanes led to three straight second-half steals out of the break, which in turn stretched the Hornets’ lead to double digits.
▪ Speaking of steals, the Hornets registered a season high with 14.
▪ This victory ended a 14-game streak of losing games decided by 3 points or less.
▪ This is Charlotte’s last game before the 2018 All-Star Game break. The Hornets’ next game will be at home versus the Brooklyn Nets on Feb. 22.
▪ Before the game, there was a moment of silence to honor the victims of a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., about three hours south of Orlando.
▪ Lots of boos throughout the game for Howard, who was drafted No. 1 overall by Orlando in the 2004 NBA Draft and played for the Magic until 2012.
B OFFENSE: The Hornets were better offensively for most of the game than their percentages would show, but going cold late in the fourth didn’t help. Walker’s and Batum’s 3s down the stretch were huge.
C DEFENSE: When the Magic were missing shots (which wasn’t often), it was more a product of them missing than the Hornets playing good defense. Orlando may have only shot 41.9 percent from the floor, but that’s largely a product of jacking up shots in the fourth quarter.
B+ COACHING: Clifford still has his team playing hard, even with the playoffs almost out of reach. To stay calm and prevail in a late, close game on the road (even against lowly Orlando) proves that.
Hornets 104, Magic 102
CHARLOTTE (104)—Kidd-Gilchrist 2-7 1-2 5, Williams 2-8 1-2 6, Howard 9-16 4-6 22, Walker 6-19 4-4 20, Batum 5-11 0-0 14, Kaminsky 1-5 0-0 2, Zeller 3-3 0-0 6, Carter-Williams 2-5 2-2 6, Lamb 6-10 3-3 17, Graham 2-4 0-0 6. Totals 38-88 15-19 104.
ORLANDO (102)—Simmons 2-5 1-1 5, Hezonja 10-20 0-0 21, Biyombo 3-7 5-6 11, Augustin 5-11 2-2 16, Fournier 5-15 1-2 13, Iwundu 1-1 2-2 4, Speights 5-12 2-2 16, Birch 1-2 0-0 2, Mack 2-8 2-2 8, Afflalo 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 36-86 15-17 102.
3-Point Goals—Charlotte 13-30 (Batum 4-7, Walker 4-8, Lamb 2-3, Graham 2-3, Williams 1-5, Kaminsky 0-2, Carter-Williams 0-2), Orlando 15-37 (Augustin 4-6, Speights 4-8, Mack 2-3, Afflalo 2-3, Fournier 2-10, Hezonja 1-6, Simmons 0-1). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Charlotte 45 (Howard 13), Orlando 48 (Biyombo 11). Assists—Charlotte 26 (Batum 7), Orlando 21 (Augustin 4). Total Fouls—Charlotte 15, Orlando 17. A—18,428 (18,846).