The Charlotte Hornets did not play their best basketball game, but at the same time it was a lot better than some of their previous performances we've seen over the month. The starters are returning to life now that Nicolas Batum is back in the lineup, but the bench continues to falter in areas of need resulting in some interesting lineup choices.
The Hornets came out of the gates very well scoring 36 points in the first quarter. They obviously weren't lighting up the scoreboard the same way they did against the Atlanta Hawks, but the offense was running at a pace that could have won them the game. Unfortunately the defense wasn't able to keep up as the New Orleans Pelicans were surprisingly great on that end. The Pelicans have been a very up and down all season, but tonight they played some of their best offensive basketball of the season despite a quiet start from Anthony Davis.
The Hornets managed to force Davis to settle for a lot of long two's throughout the game, and in most nights this would have paid off, but New Orleans got a huge 32 point performance from Ryan Anderson off the bench. Anderson torched an already struggling Hornets bench and scored 21 points in the first half. It didn't help that Marvin Williams got into foul trouble early and wasn't able to come in and provide defensive help on the red hot Anderson.
With the Hornets coming out of halftime down eight points it was obvious they were going to need their starters to make up for where the bench once again failed them. Williams responded to this by picking up his fifth foul of the game with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. A big blow with Anderson shooting flames from his fingertips. Luckily, Batum and Kemba Walker came to the Hornets rescue.
Charlotte's two creators had a huge role in keeping this game close with a combined 50 points between the two of them, and both playing over 40 minutes. They carried Charlotte, and the game may have been a different story without them. Batum had himself one of those games where it's hard to not see him getting a max contract over the summer thanks to his versatility. It may have taken him 22 shots to get his 25 points, but he had the defense's full attention whenever the ball was in his hands. This allowed Walker to move off ball and hit shots from 3-point range which he did with scary efficiency. Batum finished the game with eight assists, and Walker finished with five 3-pointers including a clutch shot to tie the game.
Late in the fourth is when Charlotte played their best basketball. With most of the starters plus either Jeremy Lin or Frank Kaminsky on the floor at all times the Hornets quickly erased a nine point lead, and were tied up with the Pelicans going for the win. All the Hornets had to do was play defense and they'd get a chance to win it in regulation or overtime. Instead...
Yeah, that's one of those things that only players like Anthony Davis can do. The Hornets obviously didn't defend it very well, but when Davis gets an open lane to the rim like that with the lob it's game over.
Despite the lob, Charlotte had a chance to tie or win it. After some theatrics involving a timeout, and a tipped pass, the Hornets got the ball into Jeremy Lin with nobody in his way to the rim. Jrue Holiday fouled him, because the Pelicans had a foul to give. The problem is that Lin was clearly shooting off the catch, and the foul was preventing him from shooting. He should have had free throws. Instead, the Hornets had to inbound again, and a Batum turn around prayer from the corner missed. Hornets lose.
This was frustrating for a lot of reasons. First of them being that Lin should have been shooting free throws, and the Hornets ended up with a far worse shot instead. Second of it being that despite this the Hornets still should have won. If they had played a little better on defense then they would have walked out of New Orleans with a win. It was the same story. Get behind. Climb back. Give up another lead. Until they can take the lead, and keep it, they're gonna have situations like this.
The Hornets got jobbed in the end, but they should have never put in the refs hands in the first place.