Last time the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings squared off, star guard Kemba Walker returned after missing 20 games due to left knee surgery. Ten days later, the Hornets and Kings meet for the second and final time this season as Walker returned again, this time to the starting lineup. The result was the same. After a 113-106 loss March 11 in Charlotte, the Hornets followed it up with a 101-91 loss in Sacramento 10 days later.
Before the game, Charlotte's fortunes seemed high. They were coming off two days of rest and were getting Cody Zeller back in the rotation while it was announced that Kings center DeMarcus Cousins would miss the game due to a calf injury.
Rudy Gay knocked down a three to start the game, starting the Kings fast start. Sacramento hit five 3-pointers in the first quarter while Charlotte struggled on offense. Like the majority of the year, the only source of offense was flurry of Al Jefferson post-ups and face-ups. Al's moves on the block were working but his mid-range jumper was off all night. While the Kings got started quickly, they turned the ball over far too often to have the lead they had. The reason they did is because the Hornets couldn't capitalize on their eight first quarter turnovers, only converting them into two points. The Kings got started quickly and their second unit held the lead as Hornets not named Al shot 3-of-14 in the opening period.
While Charlotte started the second quarter down 29-22, they whipped up a 5-0 run to reduce their deficit to just two. Sacramento and Charlotte had their stretches of unforced errors, making the second period a sloppy one. The Hornets defense was not great at all tonight but it wasn't dreadful. Despite Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's best efforts, Rudy Gay was nailing anything and everything. For the second consecutive game against Charlotte, he posted a productive performance that wasn't effected by any kind of contest. The Kings took a 57-46 lead into halftime.
Marvin Williams started the second half in place of Cody Zeller and the Hornets started out hot like they did in the second quarter. Charlotte hit five of their first six shots but made just four field goals the rest of the period. The defense was slightly improved but the refs started to make their presence felt in the third quarter. Both Kemba Walker and Mo Williams were called for technical fouls at separate points in the quarter. Mo's came with 3:27 left in the third quarter and at that point he still had not hit a field goal all night. Charlotte's improved play out of the locker room led them to a 23-all quarter but they were still down 11, 80-69, as they entered the fourth quarter.
Three different points in the fourth quarter produced a whiff of a possible run. With a little over eight minutes to play Mo Williams drained a three to bring the game to 84-77. A couple unforced errors and a lack of hustle produced bad transition defense which led to the squashing of any possible run then. With just over two minutes left, another Hornets three got the game back to eight and the Kings followed it up with a turnover. Big Al then air-balled a jumper to strike down that run. A minute and a half later, with 26 seconds to play, Marvin Williams hit a trey to put the Hornets within six, 97-91. Out of a Kings timeout, Kemba Walker picked off a pass that led to a wide-open Gerald Henderson 3-point attempt on the other end of the floor. Hendo missed and the Kings grabbed the rebound, which led to a series of free throws to ice the game.
Henderson had a team-high 20 points, his eighth game this season of 20 or more. It was also the first time the Hornets had lost this season in such games. Jefferson finished with 17 points on 8-of-18 shooting. In his return to the starting lineup, Kemba produced 18 points, five assists, and four steals in 31 minutes. Zeller's return lasted 19 minutes, a time that featured a point and six rebounds for the second-year forward. Mo finished with nine points on 3-of-15 shooting.
The Hornets hit the floor again Sunday night, 6:30 p.m. ET, in Minnesota against Andrew Wiggins and the Timberwolves.