It's strange to say that a game where the Charlotte Hornets didn't score 130 points is their best win of the season, but tonight's victory over the Dallas Mavericks makes a compelling case. In the Hornets victory over the Chicago Bulls they shot 60 percent from behind the arc, and while that's great, it's not sustainable. It felt like an outlier in what's going to be a very long season. Tonight's win over the Mavericks felt much more sustainable, and is probably what the Hornets will look like for much of the season, at least from a style perspective.
Charlotte scored the majority of their points inside the arc tonight, but they still attempted 27 3-pointers, and gave themselves valuable floor spacing. This spacing opened up lanes for perimeter slashers, and gave plenty of space for Al Jefferson to work in the post. The ball was constantly moving, and even though Charlotte didn't shoot well, they found ways to get points on the board anyways.
Their biggest production of points came from Big Al. The Mavericks didn't have a single man down low that could slow down Jefferson, and he finished with 31 points as a result. What was really impressive though was, unlike past seasons, Big Al didn't rely on holding on to the ball forever in an isolation set. He's modernized his post up game getting deep penetration without the ball, and then making one or two quick moves before putting up his shot. Now he saves his isolation post ups for the end of the shot clock when the Hornets don't have time to run a play. This style changed has made him much more efficient, and we saw that efficiency at its best tonight.
Charlotte also got a big contribution from Jeremy Lamb tonight. The offseason trade acquisition had his best game as a Hornet, scoring 16 points on seven shots, but again it's how he got those points that made it worth it. Lamb was mainly known as a spot up shooter before coming to Charlotte, but tonight he scored in a multitude of ways that probably caught viewers a little off guard. One move in particular involved him putting the ball on the floor and getting to the rim in only a few steps. That's not something many guys can do.
Marvin Williams also had another solid game with a double double, and three baskets from behind the arc. He's probably been Charlotte's most consistent player early in the season, and it's been a breath of fresh air from a team that has had massive lapses of consistency.
The best part of the night though has to be the Hornets fourth quarter performance. Charlotte has struggled in the pat with closing out games, and letting their opponent back in it, but Dallas never had a chance to do so. The Hornets put their foot on the gas early on, and once the starters came back in midway through the fourth all they had to do was deliver the knockout punch, and build the lead to an unreachable level.
Tonight's game was definitely the Hornets best game in this early season. Sure, they had lapses at times but that's natural. It's rare to play a perfect game, and the Hornets didn't, but they responded to those lapses well and never lost control. They were the better team from start to finish, and they closed it out late in the game. Sometimes that's all you can ask for.