Early on, it looked like the same old song and dance. The Hornets played a horrible first quarter, scoring only 14 points, and having no organization on offense. Al Jefferson was missing shots that we expect to go in at this point, and the Suns weren't letting Kemba Walker or Cody Zeller get anything at the rim. It was an overall horrible first quarter performance.
Then in the second quarter, things changed. It was like a light switch got flipped, and all of a sudden, the Hornets knew how to play with each other. Lance Stephenson was penetrating, getting to the rim, and playing aggressive. Al Jefferson found his shots, and the ball was moving. The player that started this second quarter spark? Why Bismack Biyombo of course! After spending much of the season buried on the bench, Biyombo finally got his chance when Steve Clifford decided to give Jason Maxiell's usual spot in the rotation to Biz. Perhaps he knew this was going to be his best chance at making an impression on Clifford, but whatever the reason, Biyombo stepped up and performed.
After a great effort from the bench, and a better second effort from the starters, the Hornets went into halftime tied. Charlotte had a great response in the second quarter, and could have easily come out of halftime flat. Instead, they were very impressive, building on what they had built. The game got fun in a hurry, with both teams trading baskets back and forth. Kemba Walker had a fantastic quarter, starting it off going 4-4 from the field, and getting to the rim at will. But the true reason this quarter was significant is because Biyombo really put his gigantic hands all over the game from this point on. During this quarter, BISMACK BIYOMBO RECORDED A DOUBLE DOUBLE. I was there, I saw it, we all saw it, the stats sheet say it's true. We will all remember this day as the day Biyombo not only took Maxiell's spot in the rotation, but did so in stat stuffing fashion.
The game continued to be a back and forth effort all the way into the 4th quarter. Charlotte had struggled all season at closing out opponents, and it was here where they needed to do so the most. Did they deliver? Well...sort of?
With just under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter, the Hornets pulled out to a 10 point lead, something that's normal with the Hornets at this point. Gaining and building leads has not been a problem, they've done that all season. Their problem has been they can't keep those leads. Charlotte doesn't know how to play in these situations. Tonight, that wasn't really different. After the next dead ball, the offense immediately went stagnant, bad shots, lazy ball movement, and nothing productive. It wasn't long until Phoenix had closed the gap.
However, what was different from the past was how the Hornets reacted. When the lead was almost blown, rather than panic and throw up bad shots, they re-grouped; managing to gain their lead back. This time, it was too late for Phoenix.
While for Phoenix, this is just a loss in November, this win has significant meaning to the Hornets. It's not just that they won, but the way they won, and the circumstances surrounding it.
The Hornets haven't exactly been a good team so far this season. The offense has been a mess, and they can't hold a lead. They embarrassed themselves against the Lakers and blew it against the TrailBlazers. Not winning a single game on their western conference road trip would have been bad enough, but the way they were losing was so much worse. But Charlotte didn't let that happen tonight, they recovered after a horrible first quarter, and played their most complete game of the season, on the road no less. The offense was functioning, the defense was at the level we've come to expect, and players that we expect to have an impact, made an impact.
Cody Zeller was one of those impact players tonight. He wasn't anything incredible scoring wise, eight points on seven shots, not very efficient. But he made some nice plays late in the game, at the rim, giving the Hornets the extra push they needed.
It was the Hornets ability to keep their composure, and not let the Suns re-take the lead late, that gave them tonight's win. They earned it, in their most complete game of the season. This could be a sign that Charlotte is starting to figure things out.