After starting the 4th quarter down by seven, the Charlotte Hornets went on a 25-2 run to beat the Washington Wizards 101-87. Jeremy Lamb led the Hornets with 18 points off the bench, with Nicolas Batum adding 16 points and 11 assists, a season high. The Hornets are now 4-0 on their current home stand, and have won seven home games in a row.
The game started at a fast tempo. The Wizards jumped out to an early lead, with Bradley Beal connecting on his first three 3-point shots. Beal wasn't the only player knocking down 3-pointers however, as both teams shot a combined 9-17 from behind the arc in the 1st quarter. Marvin Williams was hot for the Hornets, scoring eight points in the quarter on 3-3 shooting (2-2 from the 3-point line). After trailing for most of the quarter, the Hornets took the lead late, and led by four entering the second.
Bench Force 1 built upon the lead in the second quarter, with Jeremy Lin and Lamb providing instant offense, combining for 14 points in the first half. The Hornets were able to build an eight point lead, but the Wizards kept it close thanks to eight points by Gary Neal (revenge game of sorts?). Cody Zeller had a strong half, scoring 9 points on 4-5 shooting. He attacked the hoop aggressively, using his athleticism to score over Marcin Gortat. It was a strong offensive half, and despite shooting 54.5 percent in the half, the Hornets only led 58-54 at halftime.
Both teams cooled off a bit to start the 2nd half, with the Hornets missing eight 3-pointers in a row. The Hornets held the lead for much of the third quarter, but a 13-0 run by Wizards led to them taking an 81-74 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Turnovers by the Hornets, and a cooled off offense, led to the run. While not as bad as Monday night, the 3rd quarter was once again a bad spot for the Hornets. The bench unit, who typically build leads with their offense, found it difficult to score.
The 4th quarter didn't start any better, as the Hornets continually turned the ball over. The Hornets didn't allow the Wizards to get too far ahead however, and managed to cut away at the lead once Batum and Al Jefferson entered the game mid-way through the quarter. Then, the run started. Two straight 3-pointers by Batum built a small lead, then Lamb, Jefferson, and Kemba Walker got in on the action. The Hornets tightened up on defense, and the Wizards found themselves unable to knock down shots. A late 3-pointer by Lamb would cap off 25 straight points by the Hornets.
Tonight had the makings of a fast paced, high scoring game. Both teams had been strong on offense, and the first half reflected that, as both shot the ball well above average. When the shooting cooled off in the 2nd half, it became a game of runs, with the Hornets of course, ending on the biggest run of the night.
It's the second game in a row the Hornets have rallied in the fourth quarter. While they didn't face the 22 point deficit they did on Monday, tonight could have easily slipped away in the early parts of the game, as the Hornets turned the ball over too many times (19 for the game). Like on Monday however, the Hornets managed to overcome poor stretches of play. When Batum's first 3-pointer in the 4th quarter rattled into the hoop, the momentum shifted, and the Hornets didn't look back.
Scoring was very balanced for Charlotte. Six players scored in double figures, but none had more than 18. Three players (Batum, Jefferson, and Williams) finished with a double-double. This type of balance is such an advantage for a team that lacks a superstar scoring talent. While a number of players can have superstar like nights (as Walker did Monday) getting balanced scoring consistently gives the team a great chance to win on the nights when no player has a prolific game scoring.
Some final notes -- Frank Kaminsky played 17 minutes tonight, filling the role occupied by Spencer Hawes earlier in the year. He finished with just two points, but his defense was solid, and could keep him on the floor in future games. P.J. Hairston left the game in the 3rd quarter after he collided with Gortat's shoulder. He was hit in the head, but it does not appear he suffered a concussion.
The Hornets are now 9-6 heading into their toughest opponent of both the current home stand and season in the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday. The matchup will be tough, but the momentum gained during this current streak should make Friday's game interesting.