After three straight blowout losses, the Charlotte Hornets finally showed signs of life (and more importantly, signs of competent offense). It wouldn't be enough however, as they would fall to the Houston Rockets 90-100.
Tied at 52 at halftime, the Rockets' defense picked up in the second half, holding the Hornets to just 35 points in the second half. Combine Houston's defense with 29 points from James Harden, and the Rockets put together successful formula to win.
Charlotte got out to a good start, leading 13-7 at one point. Jeffrey Taylor was hot early, scoring six points in the opening minutes by leaking out on defense and getting easy points in transition. Taylor would finish with 16 points on 6-11 shooting.
For much of the first half, Charlotte hung with Houston, despite the Rockets going on multiple runs. 31 points by Houston in the third quarter would be too much for Charlotte however, and they would find themselves unable to close the gap from that point.
Along with Harden, the Rockets were led by 16 points and 11 rebounds from Josh Smith, along with 13 points from Jason Terry, 11 points from Trevor Ariza, and 10 points on 4-4 shooting from Clint Capella.
Charlotte held the Rockets to just 25.7 percent from the 3-point line, while shooting 40.6 percent (13-32) themselves. In the first half, Charlotte capitalized on Houston turnovers, scoring 22 points off of Houston's 10 turnovers. Free throws would be a difference maker however, as the Hornets were just 9-17 from the free throw line, while the Rockets were 21-26 from the line, with Harden making 14-16 by himself. Houston also outscored Charlotte in the paint 46-30.
The best play for Charlotte came from it's rotation players. They were lead by 23 points from Brian Roberts, who at one point in the 2nd quarter made three 3-pointers on three straight possessions. While he struggled a bit to score in the 2nd half, he was instrumental in keeping Charlotte in the game for most of the night. Troy Daniels had his best game as a Hornet, finishing with 15 points on 6-10 shooting (3-6 from behind the arc). Daniels has found it difficult to break into the rotation until recently, but his ability to stretch the floor with his outside shooting was a positive for Charlotte. Marvin Williams was the only other Hornet to score in double figures, finishing with 12 points on 5-7 shooting. Bismack Biyombo came close to a double-double, finishing with 9 points and 13 rebounds.
The Hornets rotation players kept the team in the game, but they were unable to get anything from Kemba Walker (four points, 2-10 shooting) or Gerald Henderson (2 points, 1-10 shooting). Head coach Steve Clifford said post game that Henderson had been struggling with injuries since last night, which limited his effectiveness.
Noah Vonleh also struggled to score, finishing with just four points on 1-8 shooting after scoring 16 points yesterday. The highlight for Vonleh was knocking down another 3-pointer from the top of the arc, which looks to be a sweet-spot on the court for him. He's a work-in-progress, but he appears to have the ability to score in a variety of ways, and it will be exciting to see how he develops that part of his game.
Tonight was the last home game of the season, and despite the loss, Charlotte played respectable in it's home finale. Beating the Rockets is a tough ask on any night, but Charlotte hung tough, and gave the Rockets a slight scare, who still have playoff seeding to play for. With their spot in the lottery assured, a win Wednesday against Toronto would be a welcome end to the season, all things considered. If the likes of Taylor, Daniels, and Roberts can play well again, and get a bit more help from the rest of the roster, Charlotte could end the season with a win.
Side note: As this will likely be my last recap of the season, I'd like to say a big thanks to all our readers. It has been a disappointing season, but I have enjoyed my first year writing for At The Hive and interacting with all of you on the site, or on Twitter. Your passion for the Hornets is undeniable, and I thank you for your continued support of At The Hive.