The Charlotte Hornet's 106-94 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday was the team's fifth win in their last seven games and has given the team a .500 record. That might not sound like much, but when you consider all the change the team went through in the offseason, that they lost arguably their best player in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist just before the season started and that Portland was the first below-.500 team the Hornets have faced this season, it makes the 5-5 record that much more impressive.
There was plenty to take away from the game. Some good (obviously) and some bad (obviously). More than anything, Sunday was a 'tale of two halves' game that this team has lost numerous times in the past. They did not on Sunday, which is a good sign moving forward.
- The first half was arguably the best basketball the franchise has played in more than a decade (and this is the second time this year that I've written that sentence). The offense looked as smooth and as good as, if not better than it did at any time last season. They had only one turnover, while forcing seven Portland turnovers that led to 13 points. They shot better than 60% from the floor. The starters and the bench each established themselves in their own unique ways. The much-maligned defense held Portland to just 18 points in the second quarter. They did everything in their power to put away a team they were better than early. Of course, then the second half occurred, but we are focusing on the positives right now.
- If nothing else, this team is far and away more fun to watch than it was last season. It may not always lead to wins, but it should help lead to more close games and less blowout losses where the Hornets struggle to break 80 points in four quarters.
- Want to talk about dominating? How about the play of Nicolas Batum and Al Jefferson?
- It is very early, but the Hornets have come out on top of their big trades this offseason, and it is not even close. The trade for Jeremy Lamb has helped reform and change the bench from a liability to one of its strengths. Acquiring Batum has helped reform the offense, as he has become everything Lance Stephenson was supposed to be, and then some. The Hornets have to find a way to keep him in Charlotte at the rate is his playing.
- At one point in the first half, the team had assists on 18 of their 24 field goals. The ball movement was so much crisper and better than it has ever been under Steve Clifford.
- Oh how you have been missed, Cody Zeller. He may not fill the stat sheet up, but his energy, hustle and rebounding were something Charlotte desperately lacked and needed, particularly with Kidd-Gilchrist out for the season.
- Talk about a tale of two halves. The Hornets scored 71 points in the first half, dropping 35 points in the first quarter and 36 in the second. The team would then score 35 points for the remainder of the game. As much as the offense has improved, the team is still susceptible to the scoring droughts they have plagued them for years.
- Remember the earlier stat about the Hornets' one turnover in the first half? Charlotte had 10 turnovers in the second half.
- Portland's length and rebounding were something that hurt the team all night. Charlotte was outrebounded 46-37 — the fifth consecutive game the team has been outrebounded in, and gave up 16 offensive rebounds, the most they have given up in a game this season. The loss of Kidd-Gilchrist on this team is obvious and has been talked about plenty, but the loss of him on the boards is something to keep on moving forward.