When everybody tuned in to the Charlotte Hornets on October 28th, 2014 they were expecting to see a night like tonight. The ball was supposed to be flying all over the place, just like it did last year, and get players in a position for them to succeed. Nobody was expecting Al Jefferson to repeat what he did last season, but he was still supposed to be a low post menace for opposing defenses, the point guard was supposed to gun, and Lance Stephenson was going to be just a bottle of chaos with a lot of ups and downs.
Well, fans didn't get that, but they sure as hell got it tonight. Charlotte played arguably their best game of the season, and played in a way that backed up why many of us thought they could be battling for home court in the first round of the playoffs instead of trying to get into the playoffs at all. The Toronto Raptors never looked to be in control of the game, even when it was close, and eventually the Hornets managed to slowly pull away from them in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets did this with some very impressive ball movement, and getting players into the spots where they can succeed most. Their method of attack was an inside out strategy that they used a lot last season. Someone would dump the ball in to Al Jefferson down low, and he would either work on his man in the post, or immediately fire it to a player moving on the wing, who would then get the chance to shoot, or pass it off to another option in the corner. If all else fails then they dump it back down to Big Al, or kick it out to Mo Williams, and let them create their own shot. This was effective all game and kept their offense at an efficient pace throughout the night.
It was especially effective for Jefferson, who happens to be playing some great basketball since the All-Star break, and tonight was no exception. Even though it took him 21 shots, Big Al finished the game with 23 points, and also manged to pull down 13 rebounds, while dishing out six assists.
Joining Big Al in the 20 points club was Mo Williams and, unlike most of his other nights, he toned down the gunning. He only attempted 14 shots, eight of them from 3-point range, and finished the game with 23 points himself. He has now only scored less than 20 twice since being traded to the Hornets. His scoring will most likely go down when Kemba Walker returns, but having another scoring threat on the roster can be nothing but helpful for Charlotte.
Of course, what might even more helpful to the Hornets future success is if Lance Stephenson plays like he did tonight for the rest of the season. Some will argue that his 20 point game against Chicago was the best he's been all season, but tonight was a lot more of what fans were expecting from him this season. He was controlled chaos from start to finish, and he had plenty of ups to go with the many downs he brought tonight. During one stretch he didn't retaliate to a shove by Kyle Lowry, and proceeded to make a very nice play, to which he then got a tech for elbowing Kyle Lowry in the head, and followed that up with another very nice play. It was the most basketball Lance Stephenson thing ever. He finished with 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and played some great pesky defense all game.
As for the rest of the Hornets, they all had their fair share of good games, and meh games. Everybody did their part to make sure Charlotte got a win, and there wasn't anybody that was particularly horrible or harmful to what Charlotte was trying to do.
Charlotte played a fantastic game, and the key contributions of Al Jefferson and Mo Williams helped them cruise away in the fourth quarter of what had previously been a closely fought game. Toronto's defense is incredibly fast, and they can close out on a rotation with the best of them. Still, they had no answer for Big Al and in the end it was mismatches like that which led to a Charlotte win.