Friday night's 113-88 win for the Charlotte Hornets could have been a trap game. A winless basketball team is a desperate one, and an off night in the NBA can mean getting caught off guard by a Philadelphia 76ers team looking to earn their first win of the season. Fortunately, that wouldn't be the case. While the Hornets played poorly for stretches of the 2nd half, a strong 1st half gave them the lead and cushion to withstand a potential Sixers run.
Kemba Walker started hot early in the first, scoring seven of the team's first 12 points. From that point, Al Jefferson took over. After missing his first two shots, Jefferson scored on his next six shots, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone. He would finish with 26 points and 10 rebounds for the game.
The Hornets lead by 11 heading into the second quarter. They would exchange baskets with the Sixers for the first half of the quarter, but were able to extend their lead in the latter parts. Jeremy Lamb provided his usual spark off the bench, scoring 10 first half points (he would finish with 13). Five quick points from Walker with just under a minute remaining extended the lead out to 23, the largest of the half. The Sixers would get two points back just before the half ended, and the Hornets would lead 62-41 at halftime.
The third quarter started well for the Hornets, with the lead reaching 26 at one point. Then, Charlotte got sloppy with the ball, their shots stopped falling, and Philadelphia managed to cut the lead to 11 at one point. Charlotte managed to end the quarter up 15, but it was a poor quarter that gave Philadelphia life when it should have sealed the win entering the fourth quarter.
Things started fairly well in the fourth quarter, although the Sixers hung around for in the early stages. When Jefferson returned to the floor, he put his post moves to good use, exposing rookie Jahlil Okafor's defense and putting the game out of reach. The benches cleared with about two and a half minutes remaining, and a barrage of points from Tyler Hansbrough (who made a 3-pointer by the way) extended the lead out to 25.
With Cody Zeller and P.J. Hairston out, Jeremy Lin got his first start of the season. He would score eight points in the first half, and finish with 9. Lin would be the first starter subbed in both halves, but only so he could rest and run minutes at the point guard with the 2nd unit. He didn't shoot that well from the field, going just 3-8, but created a number of plays, including one in the first half when managed to draw three Sixers' players away from their defenders by dribbling around them, and then finding Jefferson for a wide open jumpshot.
As a team, the Hornets shot 49.4 percent from the field, and 48 percent from 3. They also went 21-22 from the free throw line, compared to 16-22 from the Sixers.
Jefferson led all scorers with 26, with Walker just behind, finishing with 20 points on 7-12 shooting. Nicolas Batum had a quiet night, but managed 14 points on 4-9 shooting, going 3-4 from the 3-point line. Marvin Williams nearly finished with a double-double, scoring 11 points to go along with 9 rebounds.
Nerlens Noel led Philadelphia with 16 points and 9 rebounds off the bench. Nik Stauskas finished with 15 points, most of those coming in the 2nd half. Rookie Jahlil Okafor finished with just 10 points and seven rebounds.
The game should have been put out of reach early in the third quarter when the Hornets were up 26, but the Sixers made a game of it for much of the 2nd half. The win never felt in doubt, but it was a bit concerning when Philadelphia cut the lead to 11. It mirrored the Portland game in many ways, with the exception being that Portland had the talent to actually mount a comeback.
All concerns aside, the Hornets are now 7-6 on the year. It's the first time they've been above .500 since last season's home opener, and it's come at a good point in the season with five more home games in a row coming up.