The Charlotte Hornets won their biggest game of the season Friday, defeating the Atlanta Hawks at home 100-96. Nicolas Batum lead with 24 points, and 10 rebounds, while Cody Zeller finished with 23 points on 9-10 shooting.
The Hawks would take an early 4-0 lead, but two free throws by Walker, and a dunk in transition by Cody Zeller would tie it up. It would be the start of a 14-2 run lead by two 3-pointers by Batum, which would put the Hornets up 14-6 midway through the 1st quarter.
Batum would go 3-4 from deep, but Zeller was the star of the quarter, scoring 12 points on 5-5 shooting. All five shots were assisted, and came because of good movement off the ball.
Charlotte scored 29 in the quarter despite only two points from Walker, who didn’t make a field goal in the quarter, or the entire half. Zeller and Batum combined for 25 of the team’s points in the 1st.
Ramon Sessions would score four points early in the 2nd quarter to give them an early five point lead. Charlotte would maintain a lead until Dennis Schroder gave Atlanta a one point lead with 6:30 remaining. It would start a small string of lead changes that would carry into the end of the half.
Batum picked up where he left off in the 1st quarter, scoring seven more points to total 18 for the half, and the Hornets would head into halftime up 48-45.
Two turnovers for Charlotte would start the second half, however, and the Hawks would re-take the lead in just under a minute. Walker would make his first field goal roughly a minute and a half into the 3rd.
The Hawks would extend their lead to seven with 8:46 remaining in the 3rd, forcing Steve Clifford to call timeout. Atlanta would extend the lead to nine, but two 3-pointers by Marvin Williams would start a comeback that would be capped off by a Walker giving the Hornets a 64-63 lead.
The game would remain close for the remainder of the quarter. The Hornets would have a few opportunities to tie or take the lead, but would end the 3rd quarter down 80-75.
Atlanta would control most of the fourth quarter. Charlotte’s bench unit struggled to score, and the Hawks would capitalize by jumping out to a nine point lead. However, the bench unit would begin to get stops defensively, and would work their way back into the game. A 3-pointer by Marco Belinelli would cut the lead to just two points as Clifford began to sub the starters back in.
Howard would get ejected on a flagrant-2 foul on Zeller with just under six minutes remaining. It would make a difference, as the Hornets would go on a 9-0 run to take back the lead, capped off by a Kemba Walker 3-pointer.
Big plays would continue, with Kidd-Gilchrist driving baseline and earning an and-1, followed up by this screen-and-roll play between Batum and Zeller that would seal the win:
Perfect roll to the basket by Cody Zeller. The slight delay helped Nic Batum create the space needed to make the pass. pic.twitter.com/vD3hvGQanW— Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles) November 19, 2016
With around eight minutes remaining in the 4th, the Hawks looked to be running away with the game. The second unit was unable to generate offense, and Atlanta was a couple made shots away from opening up the scoreline. However, the bench unit would tighten up defensively, which would help generate the offense they desperately needed. Then, after a poor shooting night through three quarters, Walker stepped up, knocking down multiple shots to swing momentum in Charlotte’s favor.
The game overall was highly competitive, and while the Hornets didn’t match up well with Atlanta, two season best performances from Batum and Zeller on offense made up for Walker’s poor night.
Credit must also go to MKG, who bothered Kyle Korver all night defensively, and limited him to just five points on 2-6 shooting. MKG also made a huge play late as well, grabbing his own missed shot amongst three or four Hawks defenders to extend the possession.
This was a statement win for the Hornets, who entered the night 7-3, but had yet to beat a top team in the Eastern Conference after falling short against Toronto and Cleveland. They move up to 3rd in the East after tonight, and will get a chance to extend their current win streak to three games tomorrow on the road against the New Orleans Pelicans.