The Charlotte Hornets, while not winning as many games as expected, have continued to be a highlight reel. Between Kemba Walker's crossovers, Al Jefferson's footwork, and Bismack Biyombo's high-flying blocks, the Hornets have been highlight-All-Stars in 2014. However, blown lead after blown lead means the fans can't watch these great individual plays with much excitement -- it feels empty after another gut-wrenching loss.
But after three nice wins, albeit against lower-level competition, Hornets fans can just enjoy.
They can enjoy Cody Zeller turning into a superhero. Then tripping a second later.
And rookie P.J. Hairston getting two blocks in a row, then a steal, then a transition 3-pointer...
The Hornets played like a team against the Nuggets. The days of isolation shots and mid-range fadeaways gave way to ball movement and high-efficient looks. The Hornets weren't just luckily hitting contested shots; they were creating open shots.
It all started with the Hornets two stars, Walker and Jefferson. In the first half, the duo combined for 32 points on 75% shooting and zero turnovers. When that happens, the defense adjusts to take away those players and then the whole offense opens up for the rest of the players. Guys like Hairston are free to fly around and take some chances. And there is enough talent on this roster that good things happen when guys are free to do that.
For all the time we could spend praising how well the Hornets offense looked, the defense was the real story. Through the first 40 minutes, Charlotte only gave up 60 points. Yes, only 60 points.
The Hornets moved their feet and forced the Nuggets perimeter players into tough, low-efficient shots. Coach Steve Clifford was also quick to move guys around. Arron Afflalo started the game hot on Gerald Henderson, but Clifford moved Michael Kidd-Gilchrist over to guard him for a possession or two. If MKG is anything, he's a fire hydrant on a hot guy.
This was the Hornets best game of the still-young season. After all, even after their miserable start to the year, the Hornets are only three games out of the 8th-seed in the Eastern Conference. Sure, they may not be able to get up to a top-four seed and homecourt advantage like they hoped before the season, but getting to the playoffs is still very possible.
And they could keep up their good play over the next four -- against the Bucks twice, at the Thunder, and home versus the Magic. Going 2-2 in that span isn't unreasonable and would put them a little closer to that 8th seed.
What was your favorite part of the game?