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Quickcap: Hornets drop needed win to Celtics, 106-98

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The Hornets desperately needed a win on this road trip in order to end their losing streak, but squandered a large second-quarter lead.

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In the middle of a road trip in which they desperately needed a win, the Hornets dropped a game to the Boston Celtics that they once had in hand, by a score of 106-98. Mo Williams’ strong 31-point showing was more than balanced out by Boston’s 60 bench points, including a 28-point, seven-assist performance from the newly-acquired Isaiah Thomas.

The Hornets found themselves down by six points after the first quarter, with the big difference-makers being the ineffectiveness of Charlotte’s second unit and Boston’s heat from three-point range, knocking down four of their six attempts. By comparison, the Hornets had made only one three-point attempt, a pleasant surprise at the buzzer on a running jumper by Mo Williams. With minimal foul trouble, the Hornets were in position to make the deficit a little closer, but had been outplayed by the Celtics in the first frame.

The second quarter was much better. After closing the gap, then going down by double digits for a stretch, they recovered with a 10-0 run over three minutes, and took a four-point lead into the locker room. Behind quality play by Al Jefferson (thanks to the fairly-inexplicable defensive pairing of Tyler Zeller on Big Al, which Jefferson very-understandably took advantage of) and strong team defense in the quarter, the Hornets outscored their opponents by ten points in the quarter. Playing particularly well on the defensive end was Lance Stephenson, although it wasn’t necessarily reflected in the stat sheet.

The third quarter continued the momentum built up in the previous period, although it wouldn’t last for the whole twelve minutes. The Hornets extended their lead to six, although it had been as high as 14 at one point. Mo Williams, who at this point had become the complete controller of the offense, had already scored 24 points, and three other starters had a dozen. You might not infer this from the last few possessions of the quarter alone, but the Hornets had been dominating the game for the last 16 minutes.

The fourth quarter was largely a back-and-forth affair, with both teams taking leads at various points, as the Hornets hit a scoring drought in the middle section. After a little while, the Celtics pulled ahead and held onto their lead, after many breakdowns by the normally-strong Hornets defense. This is typically where many of us would criticize Steve Clifford’s lineups, but Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played when he was needed, and I’m not sure Clifford deserves any criticism for not being able to play. Most of it just came down to the players not being able to execute when it counted, and it ended up showing on the final scoreboard.

Feel free to voice your complaints in the comments until the full recap goes up. I'll be commenting while I try my best to remain optimistic.