The Hornets got out to a big lead early, only to watch that lead evaporate by the end of the first quarter, which they finished trailing the Magic by one point. By halftime, they had taken the lead and created a little separation between to two teams. And then the third quarter happened.
Among all the teams in the NBA, the Hornets have one of the most robust margins in the third quarter. Friday night’s result against Orlando helped bolster that number, which now stands at +18.8, when they put the foot down, outscoring Orlando 39-24.
39 is a huge number for any team in any quarter. It recalls teams like the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The latter of which will host Charlotte on Saturday night in a showdown of two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
There’s a lot to be said about this remarkable performance. On the season, the Hornets shoot 34.8 percent from 3-point range, good for 15th in the NBA. They’re 10th in makes and 9th in attempts per game for the season. Let’s isolate those numbers for the third quarter. Looking at just the third quarter, the Hornets rank 4th in 3-point percentage. Interestingly, they remain 9th in attempts, but go from 10th to 6th in makes. We can derive from this that they don’t shoot more or less in comparison to their overall ranking, but for whatever reason, they become considerably more accurate for 12 minutes a night.
How did this play out on Friday night? Well, Charlotte shot 13-for-20 from the field, good for 65 percent shooting. Beyond the 3-point line, they shot an incredible 7-for-9. Their numbers had dipped in the game against the Dallas Mavericks, but they shot back up in this game. And almost entirely because of their massive third quarter. Overall, they made just nine 3s for the entire game against the Magic on 22 attempts, meaning that they were only 2-for-13 outside of the third quarter.
Another key to the huge third quarter was the effort on the boards. Did you know that the Hornets are ranked No. 1 in the entire league for defensive rebounds in the third quarter this season? They also rank near the bottom, 26th, in offensive rebounds. There are a couple of explanations for that awful number. Steve Clifford has built a great team that relies on great defensive effort and limited turnovers. They try to take care of the ball and prevent easy transition, meaning that they could be abandoning the offensive boards in favor of getting set on defense. To confirm, I looked at the numbers for the entire season. The Hornets still rank No. 1 in defensive rebounds and are actually worse on the offensive boards, down to 28th in the league.
You know where I’m going with this – Charlotte won the boards in a big way in the third quarter, 16-6. For the game, they outrebounded Orlando 59-40. More than half of that margin came in just the third quarter. And those bad numbers on the offensive boards? The Hornets won there, too, 13-9.
In all, it was a massive third quarter for the Hornets. They shot an incredible 77.7 percent from 3-point range and won the battle on the boards. It was encouraging that the Hornets didn’t just make a high percentage of their attempts, but they also made a bunch of shots in general. The victory on the offensive boards is more of a surprise to take away from the game.
Kemba Walker had his streak of 17 or more points end, but with so many good things going on, let’s be thankful for the extra rest heading into a showdown with Kyrie Irving on Saturday night.