Days after evening a season series against an inferior team in Orlando, the Hornets did the same against the lesser Lakers, although it wasn't easy.
Charlotte started 0-of-5 from the field as Los Angeles rushed out to an early 7-0 lead. The Hornets were resilient, didn't let their early deficit get too large, and battled back to a 14-14 tie midway through the first quarter. The Lakers hit their fair share of jump shots, rarely challenging with drives or moves in the paint. It's a dangerous game to play but their prayers were being answered early on. LA shot 13-of-24 from the field and 4-of-8 from 3-point land on their way to a 30-27 road lead at the end of the first quarter.
That way of living didn't sustain tonight but the Hornets could never take full advantage thanks to misses of their own and some careless mistakes. Lance Stephenson entered and seemed to be off to a nice start. He drove to the bucket hard and created contact that led to a couple trips to the free throw line. He also nailed his first jumper and swatted a Laker shot.
That Lance didn't stick around long. He eventually threw a no-look pass to Bismack Biyombo, a terrible decision, that ended in a turnover. To end his first stretch of play, he committed threw turnovers in five minutes, two of them (plus a foul) coming in just a minute of play. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who continued his high level of play, went to the bench for a period and the Lakers proceeded to go on a 10-4 run. The Lakers cooled off but turnovers and inconsistent bench play kept Charlotte from pulling away and the half ended at a 50-50 tie.
The Hornets made adjustments and with a fresh half of play ahead of them, they rumbled to a 14-3 start to open an early 11-point lead. Cody Zeller and Gerald Henderson led the run, scoring five and six points respectively in the first five minutes of the third quarter. While LA's shooting remained cool, they shot 12-of-40 from the floor in the second and third quarters, they began to get to the line and capitalized on their free throw attempts to stay within striking distance. Charlotte had a 7-point lead with 30 seconds left in the third quarter but a Jeremy Lin trey with 11 second remaining sent the team's into the fourth period with just a 4-point separation and an interesting quarter ahead.
The two teams went back and forth with the Lakers tying it a few times.The Hornets though always seemed to edge away just enough to make a Lakers win seem less than realistic. In the last minute of play, the Hornets two best players and two best friends showed their connection and talent.
Facing a sudden double in the post by Jordan Clarkson, Hornets center Al Jefferson found childhood friend Mo Williams for an open three at the top of the key that put the Hornets up six with just a minute left to play. Mo took over the remaining minute, icing the game with free throws. Williams' eight points in the final minute were enough to put the Hornets on top in the end. Jeremy Lin hit a three-pointer as time expired to make the 104-103 final score suggest an ending full of suspense.
Lin and Clarkson teamed up against Williams and Brian Roberts tonight. The West Coast crew had the home team's number too often tonight. Clarkson and Lin ended the night with a combined 42 points on 18-of-35 shooting. Roberts was the main culprit. Lin abused him at several points tonight.
While that storyline was disappointing, the Hornets won for the third time in their last four games and the team produced another all-around effort. Al Jefferson had a 2013-14 Al game, going for 21 points and 16 rebounds. It was the 18th time this season Al scored 20+. Cody Zeller had a double-double in just 21 minutes, producing 10 points and 11 rebounds. Mo Williams contributed the team's third double-double of the night, adding 20 points and dishing 13 assists. Gerald Henderson dropped 21 points and hit a couple of corner threes that got Hornets Twitter excited. Hendo has made six of the 10 treys he's attempted in the last three games. MKG challenged for the team's fourth double-double of the night but finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.
The Hornets will fly to Brooklyn tonight and will face the Nets tomorrow night in the Barclays Center. With the win tonight, Charlotte and Brooklyn are tied for the same record at 25-33. The Hornets put themselves a half game ahead of Indiana in the standings, two games ahead of Boston, and within a half game of Miami. Charlotte plays three of their next four at home and the game tomorrow night is the first of three games against Brooklyn. Each game will be crucial as the Hornets are in the midst of the most meaningful part of their season.
The game tips-off at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports South.