The game got going right away in the matchup of Kemba Walker vs. Lin, Kemba attacking the rim twice early on. His first drive beat Lin for a layup, his second drive was swatted by the giant Brook Lopez. Lin got his game going early, also. He popped an open 3-pointer and swiped a steal, leading to another Nets basket. Nicolas Batum had his game going early, getting to the line for six free throws in the first 4:14 of the game, hitting all of them.
The defense was work for Charlotte early, they forced three turnovers in the opening minutes. That effort combined with Batum’s ability to get to the line helped push the Hornets to an early 16-12 lead.
Walker went to work, not wanting to be outdone by Lin, and he followed a couple of free throws with a pull-up 3-pointer that put the Hornets up 23-14, their largest lead of the game to that point.
Jeremy Lamb was first man up for the Charlotte bench, just like head coach Steve Clifford said he would be during pre-game interviews. Lamb was brought in for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. He was followed by Frank Kaminsky in for Marvin Williams and then Ramon Sessions for Walker. The play slowed, but only a little as the Hornets pushed their lead to double-digits.
Lamb started strong, attacking the rim and knocking down his first 3-point attempt, as did Kaminsky. Charlotte started 3-for-3 from deep as a team. Batum led all scorers in the first quarter with 10 points and Kemba edged Lin in their battle, 9-7 en route to a huge 40-point Hornets quarter on 60.9 percent shooting.
The highlight of the early second quarter was Clifford calling a 20-second timeout and giving the team an earful. The lowlight was that the Nets were knocking down some shots and generally looking a little better than they should. The two sides pushed back and forth for most of the quarter with Charlotte unable to pull away, but Brooklyn unable to catch them despite continued great play from Jeremy Lin, who took the second quarter in his showdown with Walker. He finished the first half with 15 points, Walker finished with 13.
Frank Kaminsky was a pleasant surprise off the bench with nine points and four rebounds. Batum’s 10 point first quarter was followed by a zero point second quarter. Both teams shot particularly well, both shooting exactly 50 percent from the field. Where the Hornets struggled was from 3-point range. After starting 3-for-3, they shot 1-for-10 the rest of the half. Charlotte might have struggled from deep, but hey won the battle in the paint 24-14, a major factor of success for the Hornets.
Charlotte scored a couple of quick baskets to push the lead to 14 points, but then the Nets went on a 15-0 run, taking the lead. And right at the end of that run was the worst news of the night for fans of good basketball – Jeremy Lin hurt himself driving to the rim. He subbed himself out and walked directly to the locker room. And after that, the Hornets went back on a run. And almost six minutes into the second half, we finally got our first Zeller rim-running slam dunk of the night. It was a highlight that nicely surmised a 9-0 Charlotte run after the Brooklyn surge back into the game.
The end of the third quarter was important in the same way as the first half, great play from both Kaminsky and Batum. It helped the Hornets keep pace with Brooklyn, staying in the lead 88-83 entering the fourth quarter. It looked like the Hornets might be able to extend the lead, but a couple of tough defensive possessions in a row by the Nets turned into transition baskets and a clutch 3-pointer from Brooklyn big man Justin Hamilton made it 92-90 with less than 10 minutes to play.
Continuing the theme of Brooklyn bigs, Lopez put up consecutive 3-point plays to get the game tied, and the Nets then took the lead at 100-98. And they did all of this without Lin, all part of a 10-2 run over the course of about two minutes midway through the fourth.
The points kept rolling in for Brooklyn and the shots kept rolling out for Charlotte. When Marvin Williams finally knocked down a much-needed 3, the Nets used a broken play scramble to find the open shooter and return the favor, stifling whatever momentum the Hornets were trying to build.
It got wild toward the end of this game. It looked like the Hornets might be fading when Batum converted the rare 4-point play and then Zeller grabbed his own rebound and put it back to tie the game at 111-111. And then Brooklyn did what they did so well all night and knocked down two more 3-pointers to push the lead to four points.
Batum knocked down a 3-pointer of his own with about 30 seconds left to pull within one point, the Nets missed and Zeller hauled down a rebound. Charlotte called a timeout with 8.6 seconds left, then ran a play for Kemba who was rejected, but Zeller snatched up the ball and dropped it in with just over two seconds to play.
And then Randy Foye knocked down a 3-pointer as time expired. It was reviewed and it was good. After a back-and-forth battle, an outplayed Hornets squad was forced into defeat by the only Foye basket of the night.