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Quickcap: Hornets at Suns

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Some immediate thoughts upon the Hornets' 103-95 win to the Phoenix Suns.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

What started out as a disappointing game became a boring but competitive match, and then became an exciting victory, as the Hornets took a win in Phoenix away from a strong Suns team. Following that initial first period of a completely ineffective offense-- would it really be a Hornets game if they didn't considerably struggle for one quarter?-- Charlotte was able to make the right adjustments in order to get back into the game, and then pull away with the lead in the fourth quarter.

The first quarter was nothing short of a disaster, and the Hornets found themselves down 28-14 heading into the first break. Nothing was working; nobody in the teal jerseys could hit their shots, and everybody in the orange jerseys made whatever shot they took, regardless of the defensive positioning. Things changed early into the second quarter, though, as the Hornets broke off an 11-0 run to start the quarter, and a 7-0 run to end the half, forcing a 47-47 deadlock as the teams headed into the locker rooms. The biggest factor in this, I'd have to say, was Al Jefferson finally getting his name on the score sheet in a positive way, with a nice reverse layup followed immediately by an elbow jumper, which helped the Hornets complete the first-half comeback.

While we've seen the Hornets struggle to stay consistent for whole games, they were remarkably effective after halftime, and kept up their production to keep extending their lead in the fourth quarter. Kemba Walker finally performed like he's capable of playing, leading the team with 19 points, and forcing a couple timely turnovers. Gary Neal was likewise a sparkplug as the game went into its final dozen minutes; although his overall shooting line of 4-13 isn't what you would typically describe as impressive, he hit some important shots when needed, especially with P.J. Hairston seeing fewer minutes in the second half.

Some stray notes:

  • Bismack Biyombo is making a case to bench Jason Maxiell. Maxiell hasn't played well anyway, but we already know Biyombo is the Hornets' best interior defender. If he can score and rebound as well as he did tonight (3-4 shooting [5-6 from the line] for 11 points, 10 rebounds), there's no reason to keep Maxiell in the regular rotation. Biyombo putting up that type of numbers on a nightly basis might be unlikely, but he still offers considerably more than Maxiell does at this point.
  • Lance Stephenson probably played his best game all season, and not just because his shooting percentages were finally adequate tonight. Essentially filling in for the injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, which could have been a potentially disastrous absence, Stephenson made an admirable effort on the defensive end. Related: the normally-average Suns shot only .279 from behind the three-point line.
  • I thought the Suns' non-traditional lineups could cause some trouble for the Hornets, but they exceeded my expectations. I was really impressed by their all-around game tonight.
  • I'm not looking at season stats (this is a Quickcap, after all), but Cody Zeller is good at this game. I'm starting to think he could be an asset in the starting lineup. Maybe. Don't hold me to that.
  • With the long list of players on the pregame injury report, I was getting interested in what bench lineups could be used tonight. While I'm definitely happy to get the win, and that a lot of the players turned out to be healthy enough to play, I am somewhat disappointed that we didn't get to see Noah Vonleh make his NBA debut tonight.