After losing four straight, the Charlotte Hornets got back to their winning ways on the road tonight with a 107-99 win over the Atlanta Hawks. While only getting one win on a five game road trip, seeing the offense and defense play the way they did tonight was certainly uplifting. The team shot 48.9 percent from the field and held the Hawks to under 100 points. In the previous four games, the Hornets shot a combined 40 percent and gave up an average of 107.8 points per game.
The Hawks didn't have much to boast about coming into tonight, either. Although they'd won three of their last four, a prior seven-game skid is the reason they now find themselves below .500 at 13-14.
The Hornets started off slow like they have too often this season with little ball movement and a lot of deep jump shots. However, Cody Zeller had an early four points and fueled the Hornets all night with his aggressive play. He finished with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds. To finish the quarter, the Hornets began to shoot the ball well and rotations on both sides picked up. A 14-7 Hornets run to finish the quarter led to a 22-22 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Thanks to the team's third leading scorer, Marco Belinelli, and the rest of the bench unit, the Hornets carried the momentum into the second quarter and continued their hot shooting. Ramon Sessions, who started in place of Kemba Walker the night before, scored six quick points with a steal and an assist in just eight first half minutes. The team would head to the locker room with a double-digit lead, 53-42, after an impressive 31 point second quarter.
The Hawks wouldn't give up without a fight, though. Despite the Hornets getting out to a 16-point lead in the third quarter, the Hawks fought their way back and pulled within six before the last frame. Tim Hardaway Jr. led all scorers with 21 points on the night, and a struggling Kent Bazemore performed well with 17 of his own off the bench. Dwight Howard added 23 rebounds to his 10 points, while Paul Millsap scored 20.
In the fourth quarter, there was a constant back and forth until the very end. After the Hawks took an 87-86 lead off two free throws, Belinelli responded with a huge three. He wasn't done though. The Hawks would take another one-point lead at 95-94 with 3:52 left, only to see it evaporate off another Belinelli three-point dagger. The 10-year veteran scored 19 points on the night and continues his hot start in his new home of Charlotte. Marvin Williams also had a big shot against his former team, drilling a three-ball with under 30 seconds left to stretch the current lead to five. Williams matched Belinelli's 19 points hitting three of four shots behind the arc.
Additionally, Kemba Walker, who returned tonight after missing last night's game in Boston, proved his importance once again by adding a double-double of his own, scoring 18 points and dishing out 10 assists. Even though he was only gone for one game, we sorely missed plays like this one:
However, the biggest nod goes to the bench unit. Combining for 43 points, they not only helped get a lead in the first half but maintained it in the second. Frank Kaminsky, who had struggled offensively in the past few games, went inside and outside for his nine points, while Jeremy Lamb added eight of his own. Undoubtedly, Belinelli gets the game ball with his scorching hot shooting down the stretch. It was fun to watch.
Now, standing at 15-13, the Hornets will head home to host the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.