As tonight's game ticked down, the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers lost their respective games, creating a scenario where four of the six teams (Boston, Indiana, Milwaukee, Charlotte) in the battle for the 6, 7, 8 seeds in the Eastern Conference playoffs had losing streaks of three or more games.
Not 15 minutes later did the Charlotte Hornets remove themselves from that group. Charlotte's mindset changed after another slow start and they powered their way to a 109-98 win on the road in Minnesota.
Before tip-off it was announced that Cody Zeller would miss the game for the Hornets as would Minnesota's Ricky Rubio and Kevin Garnett. The Timberwolves had been off since Thursday night and they were fresh and fast to start tonight's game. Minnesota got up early thanks to five quick points from this year's Slam Dunk champion, Zach LaVine. Despite former Minnesota guard Mo Williams calling out the Wolves plays as they were called, the Hornets found themselves down for the eighth consecutive game after the first quarter.
Charlotte started the second period down 27-18 but after a 10-3 run to start the quarter they got the deficit to just two. The Hornets were never able to take the lead in the second quarter but kept the game close, going into halftime down five, 59-54, thanks to double-figure scoring from Mo Williams (12) and Gerald Henderson (11).
Like they did to start the second quarter, Charlotte started off the third with another run. This time they took the lead. The Hornets busted a 14-2 run, taking the lead on a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist dunk with 9:31 to play in the third. A Kemba Walker steal led to the dunk by MKG. Walker had three steals in the first three minutes of the third quarter. His peskiness as a defender showed and it fueled Charlotte's takeover. With 3:42 left in the quarter, Al Jefferson drained a bucket to make it five Hornets players in double-figures. Charlotte relied on their starting five and just three bench players but thanks to all-around impact plays by Kidd-Gilchrist and the team's defense forcing seven turnovers in the quarter, the Hornets took a 82-78 lead into the fourth.
Charlotte allowed 27 and 32 points in the first and second quarter respectively but only 19 in the third. The defensive stops continued into the fourth and Charlotte maintained their lead no matter what Minnesota threw at them. A nice drive-n-kick by Lance Stephenson to Mo Williams ended in a Mo 3-pointer that put the Hornets up nine with 9:31 to play. Minneosta somewhat threatened towards the end, continuously getting their deficit down to four but never less than that. WIth just over a minute left, MKG grabbed an offensive rebound and after a few swings of the ball, Marvin Williams hit a dagger-three to put the Hornets up nine and sealing the game.
Charlotte swept the season series vs. Minnesota thanks to an 11-4 closing run and a defensive mindset in the third quarter that helped them track down the lead. The Hornets grabbed 13 offensive rebounds to Minnesota's three while also outscoring them in the paint 52-22.
Mo Williams had 24 points and four assists off the bench. It marks his ninth game of 20 or more points in his 16 games with the Hornets. In his second game back in the starting lineup, Kemba Walker added 16 points, eight assists, three rebounds, and a season-high six steals. Kidd-Gilcrhist and Al Jefferson had 18 points a piece and combined for 20 rebounds. After not scoring in the first half, Marvin Williams finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Off the bench, Lance had eight points, four rebounds, and four assists. Gerald Henderson also added 17 points to the mix.
Charlotte currently sits in the eighth spot as they travel to Chicago. It is the last of four meetings between the two team's and Charlotte has won the last two. The Hornets take on the Bulls tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. ET in the United Center.