Take a deep breath. How did that feel?
The Hornets recovered nicely after returning from a rough road trip that compounded the league's longest losing streak entering Wednesday's game. The Charlotte defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 107-84, breaking a seven-game losing streak in the process.
Steve Clifford's team had entered the night losing eight of their last 10 games. Injuries had been a major concern but Nicolaus Batum, Jeremy Lin and Spencer Hawes have all since returned from their various ailments. That didn't stop the Hornets from dropping a disappointing game at Denver to wrap-up their road trip.
They returned home on Wednesday night to welcome the Atlanta Hawks, a team that has largely owned them. Jeff Teague always seems to control the pace and have his way on the offensive end against Kemba Walker. Plus, the Hawks were coming off back-to-back 120-point performances.
An eighth straight loss wasn't a guarantee but it was certainly expected in many minds. Charlotte bucked that expectation early on. Atlanta committed four turnovers in just over four minutes of game play. The Hornets began the night on a 17-0 run after the Hawks scored the opening basket. A three-point bucket from P.J. Hairston opened the scoring for Charlotte. Kemba Walker followed with an old-fashioned three-point play and Cody Zeller was making his presence felt on both ends of the floor.
Despite the early success, the Hornets would take just a one-point lead into the second quarter. Atlanta followed Charlotte's 17-2 open with a 17-3 run of their own to close the quarter.
The Hawks have been a team that often gave the Hornets trouble. However, Charlotte guarded Atlanta well all night. They had their spurts, but Clifford's group often closed passing and driving lanes while contesting each and every shot.
Walker was taking control on the offensive end after a rough night in Denver. He shot 3-of-12 in the thin air but knocked down five of his first seven shots in the first half. Jeremy Lin usually doesn't get to the line often but he was 6-of-6 from the charity stripe to give the Hornets some offensive relief.
A Jeremy Lamb slam and a trey from rookie Frank Kaminsky were highlights of a 10-0 run in the second quarter for Charlotte. Zeller contributed nine points in 12 minutes of action early on and the Hornets' defense was in lockdown mode. Charlotte took a 45-36 lead into halftime, matching their season-low for points allowed in the first half.
Kyle Korver didn't hit his first three-pointer until less than a minute left in the first half. He wasn't the only player struggling to score points at Time Warner Cable Arena. Hawks' star Al Horford was held scoreless until a few minutes into the third quarter. Batum was also sporting a goose egg in the scoring column until he scored on a putback midway through the third. Marvin Williams was scoreless in the first half but his eight points to start the second half helped Charlotte maintain a double-digit lead.
Batum followed his first basket with a made three-pointer and the foul. He would connect on the foul shot to complete the rare four-point play. Hornets increased their lead to 20 with five minutes to play in the third quarter. As the quarter wound to a close, Charlotte's lead increased to 22, the largest of the night.
Not too long into the final period of play, Clifford's team pumped their lead to 24. Charlotte managed 21 assists on their first 28 made field goals. An astounding stat that conjured moments of the Hornets' early season success.
Walker led the way, finishing with 23 points and shooting 9-of-13 from the floor, including a 4-of-6 mark from behind the arc. Zeller contributed 19 points and 10 rebounds, earning his second double-double of the season. Lin tallied 19 points in a critical bench performance.
Charlotte will need to bottle this performance up and try to make it work on the road. They'll travel to New Orleans, where they will take on the Pelicans Friday night.