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Game Trend: The unlikely, but effective pairing of Hibbert and Hawes

Despite playing seldomly prior to Thursday night, Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes gave Charlotte a needed lift in the fourth quarter.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets won 97-87 Thursday night against the Dallas Maverick, but it felt like a loss for those who watched. The Hornets never really looked in danger of losing, but they let Dallas hang around far too long, playing uninspiring basketball until Kemba Walker did his usual thing late in the fourth quarter to put the game away.

It was a ugly game, and until the closing minutes of the third quarter, the only thing worth writing about was how Walker didn’t recognize the the theme song to Friends.

Thankfully, I can save that column for another time, and focus instead on the night’s two most unlikely contributors — Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes. While neither was the star Thursday night, they provided quality minutes, particularly in the second half, when the Hornets were looking rather lethargic on the offensive end. And believe it or not, they did it while playing together.

Hibbert had the more statistically appealing night, scoring 11 points on 5-7 shooting to go with four rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. He did most of his damage in the first half, but provided three key plays at the start of the fourth that gave Charlotte a bit of momentum.

First, Hawes would find Hibbert open under the basket for a dunk to give Charlotte a 10 point lead. A few possessions later, Hibbert came up with a key rejection on Jonathan Gibson:

On the ensuing possession, Hibbert completed a 3-point play after being fouled and scoring the basket:

It was a strong stretch of play for Hibbert, and at the time looked to be the catalyst for the Hornets to run away with the win. Overall, it was Hibbert’s best game in a while. He looked healthy and comfortable moving up and down the floor, which is a good sign.

Hawes’ impact was less noticeable, but still important. Finishing with seven points on 3-3 shooting, Hawes picked his spots on the offensive end, making two high percentages shots, along with one fade away jumper off one foot that Men in Blazers undoubtedly refer to as, “that’s so Hawesy.”

But Hawes’ real impact came as the facilitator of the offense. Putting him on the floor with Hibbert isn’t the norm for Clifford, and he’s only resorted to it since Marvin Williams went down with a hyperextended knee. The two have only played 53 minutes together including tonight, and posted a poor Net Rating of -13.7, suggesting that it hasn’t made for an ideal frontcourt. But Hawes was brought in because Frank Kaminsky had played so timidly on the offensive end that shots weren’t falling, and the ball wasn’t moving like it needed to. For all of Hawes’ quirks, and the fact that playing two, 7-footers who aren’t exactly mobile doesn’t create the best match-ups on defense, Hawes did exactly what he needed to — stretch the floor, look to create on offense, and actually knock down a few shots.

While Walker’s big plays towards the end of the game will get most of the attention, the play of Hibbert and Hawes together made a difference, and combined for 18 of Charlotte’s 46 bench points. It was an odd pairing, and we may never see it again, but the two big men played key roles in Charlotte earning their 11th win of the season.

Note: A previous version of the article stated Hibbert and Hawes hadn’t played together prior to Thursday’s game, when in fact the two have featured on the court together in five games. The article has been updated to reflect that.