In Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's best game of the year, the Hornets dropped a close loss to the Sacramento Kings, 113-106, due to some key injuries that left the Hornets playing a type of improvised basketball that looked alternately sloppy and unproductive. Cody Zeller was inactive with an injury he suffered in Monday's loss against the Washington Wizards, Kemba Walker was only ever going to see limited minutes due to his recovery from a long-term injury concern, and Al Jefferson had to be removed from the game midway through the third quarter. As you might expect, this did not help the Charlotte Hornets.
The first quarter was a battle of runs; The Kings started off on a 13-4 run, before the Hornets scored ten straight to take the lead. After that, it was a back and forth affair, with the Kings struggling to hit shots at the rate they were before, and the Hornets doing all they could to keep the lead on the Sacramento side.
The second quarter didn't see any team take a big lead, although Sacramento threatened to pull away a bit a few times, but those efforts were stymied by a few key three-pointers from the Hornets. Walker and Marvin Williams had hit a pair each, and Kidd-Gilchrist, who had a very good all-around half of basketball, converted a key and-one. The Hornets were down five heading into the locker rooms though, and a lot of that had to do with Mo Williams struggling offensively, shooting only 2-10 from the floor, very few of which were near the basket. Turnovers had been an issue, as had the Hornets' struggles to pick up free throws, and it was clear that Cody Zeller's absence was hurting the team on both ends of the court.
The third quarter saw the Hornets suffer an injury to Jefferson, and though many feared the worst, it turned out to just be a "sore ankle" and his return being "questionable," although he didn't even come back to the bench. So maybe the initial reports were inaccurate, but I definitely hope that's not the case. In the meantime, BIsmack Biyombo carried the frontcourt, while Mo Williams got hot, and the Hornets went on a run to tie up the game heading into the fourth quarter. The unsung hero of the night for the Hornets was Gerald Henderson, who made very few mistakes all game, facilitated ball movement, and added in some efficient scoring as well.
It was clear that the injuries were too much for the Hornets to handle. With sixty percent of their starters riding out injuries on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, including the starting frontcourt, the Hornets struggled down the stretch. Jason Maxiell, suddenly seeing minutes he probably isn't used to, offered barely more than "nothing" for the game, forcing Steve Clifford to play a rotating duo of Kidd-GIlchrist and Marvin Williams as the power forward, which was, to say the least, not an ideal situation for Marvin, who was torched defensively and was unable to find quality offensive production when not just looking for open three-pointers off a pass.
You don't give up 113 points unless some players on the other team have some pretty terrific scoring nights, and the Hornets were torched by Ben McLemore's 27, Rudy Gay's 26, and DeMarcus Cousins' 20. Biyombo did what he could against Cousins (for a while, it looked like he would drop way more than twenty points), but the injuries forced the Hornets to run some unhelpful defensive matchups. Marvin Williams on Rudy Gay was never going to be a winning combination, nor was Marvin Williams on Carl Landry (who scored 10 points on only four field goal attempts), and a lot of that had to do with the fact that there was no versatility in the frontcourt. Having Cody Zeller on the bench is quickly proving to be a gigantic loss for the Charlotte defense.
With this loss, the Hornets likely fall out of the current playoff standings (depending on how other games finish), and their next game is against the Chicago Bulls on Friday, a contest they will probably not be fully healthy for. This game could have been a lot different without the current injury concerns, but the ultimate result was perhaps one of the most damaging losses of the season to Charlotte's playoff hopes.