Monday night the Charlotte Hornets traveled to Memphis for the revenge game from a week ago. The Memphis Grizzlies prevailed in that game, knocking off the Hornets at home as part of Charlotte’s four game losing streak.
This week the tables were flipped, as Charlotte leapt out to an early lead on the Grizzlies, controlling the boards and making shots that Memphis simply wasn’t making. While the Grizzlies twice battled back, once taking the lead briefly in the second quarter, the Hornets retook the lead and never looked back during the second half.
The first quarter highlighted Frank Kaminsky at times, inserted into the starting lineup for the injured Marvin Williams. He made passes, set screens, and scored points - all you could ask of a second-year player. Charlotte’s early 13-3 lead was soon a tight contest, and the first quarter ended in a 25-25 tie.
The second quarter saw Mike Conley and Troy Williams get going, as they scored or assisted on every point scored in the period. The Grizzlies gained a four-point lead early in the quarter. Then the Hornets’ bench began lighting up the scoreboard, as players such as Ramon Sessions got going. With the defense locked in, this team held the Grizzlies to just 12 points in the quarter.
By the time the smoke cleared, Kemba Walker had dusted the dirt off of his All-Star candidacy and lead his Hornets to a strong 56-39 halftime lead. The tied first quarter yielded a completely different outcome in the second, as the Hornets wore down the Grizz en route to a 17-point advantage.
Any hopes for a Memphis comeback collapsed to the court with Mike Conley, who had to leave the game for medical attention and was never brought back in. In his stead a pair of rookies, Andrew Harrison and Wade Baldwin IV, held down the fort. At least, they attempted to.
Kemba Walker and the Charlotte Hornets took advantage of the experience gap to attack the weak links in the Grizzlies’ defensive scheme. Troy Daniels, Wade Baldwin IV, and Andrew Harrison were unable to stay disciplined enough to stick with the veteran Walker, and he feasted during the second half on these defenders.
Not only did they fall short defensively, but on offense their play was sloppy and inconsistent. Harrison was called for offensive fouls two possessions in a row, and the very next time down the court Wade Baldwin IV dribbled it out of bounds. Simply put, they missed Mike Conley.
Eventually the Hornets pulled away and began to assert their will on the game, A four-point .deficit became 12 and so forth, until the final margin read 104-95. Walker was excellent, scoring from around the hoot and drawing help defenders at will. Those Harrison turnovers were in fact Kemba Walker with his feet set, taking yet another pair of charges to add to his impressive repetition.
Jeremy Lamb was the other star of the game, going for 21 points to lead all scorers. He also tore down 9 rebounds, one game after dropping 18-12. If Lamb can develop into a high-energy rotation player this team will have a strong bench set up. That scoring was on full display Monday night, from dunks to steals.
Marc Gasol lead the way for the Grizzlies with nineteen points and six rebounds, with Conley putting up 13 before heading to the locker room.
The Hornets didn’t destroy the Grizzlies, but it was a solid road win against a playoff contender. Moving forward Charlotte will seek to string together consistently good games to overcome its recent slump and regain home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference.