The Memphis Grizzlies were doing what the Grizzlies do. They pushed and pounded and, at FedEx Arena Monday, moved to a safe 15-point lead against the Charlotte Hornets. A comeback by the visitors, a 7-point underdog, was unlikely. The Grizzlies had yet to lose at home and the Hornets had yet to win on the road.
The lead was still nine going into the fourth quarter. And then Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker went one-on-world. Walker lifted the Hornets. He was the best and most dominant player on the court and his teammates moved to his beat.
Charlotte went on a 15-4 run and it was exhilarating. The Grizzlies could neither score nor stop the Hornets from scoring. When Memphis did score it was so surprising that the game should have been stopped and a ceremony held. The Grizzlies managed only 17 fourth-quarter points, and the Hornets won 104-95.
Walker scored 27 points and added six assists. Five Hornets scored in double figures and two scored nine points.
The victory was important for a lot reasons, among them that on Friday they began an eight-day four-team road trip. They play at San Antonio, Minnesota, the New York Knicks and Boston.
After winning two straight, they’re 4-3. Had they lost Monday their winning percentage could have been buried when they returned from the road.
When Walker came to Charlotte he had a New York outdoor jump shot, which is to say that he was as likely to hit it with the wind blowing as he was when it wasn’t. So Walker worked on it. This season he’s averaging 24.4 points and 6.4 assists and is shooting 46.4 percent from the field.
A team can’t establish an identity only seven games into a season. But these guys work. They fight. And that’s a fine start.