The Charlotte Hornets visited the Dallas Mavericks on Monday night. Dallas entered the game with a host of injuries and one of the worst record in the league, but fresh off a huge win over the Chicago Bulls. Here’s how the action played out in a hard-fought Charlotte victory.
The Hornets ran a starting five of Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller.
It was fitting that in his 100th career game, Kaminsky opened the scoring. The Mavericks responded and got out to a 5-2. The Hornets then went on a quick 6-0 run, including a thunderous slam from Zeller. There wasn’t any wait to get the marquee matchup of Harrison Barnes attacking Kidd-Gilchrist. Those two players were banging bodies hard and often early in the game.
Roy Hibbert was the first Charlotte sub, in for Zeller at about the 5:15 mark of the first. Overall, the Mavericks started out shooting poorly, 4-for-13, but made up for it with trips to the free throw line. That helped keep the game close, despite better shooting from the Hornets.
MKG was next out of the game, subbed for Marco Belinelli. Next, Kemba was subbed for Ramon Sessions, leaving Kaminsky and Batum as the starters on the floor. Kaminsky came out after 10 minutes of action, Spencer Hawes in. The Hornets relied on inside work for most their points, outscoring the Mavs 14-4 at the rim. They did not convert on a 3-point shot during the quarter.
Batum looked good in the first quarter, leading the Hornets with seven points in a full 12 minutes. He shot 2-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 at the free throw line. The first quarter finished 23-23.
The game was extremely back and forth. Just a couple of minutes into the second quarter it was 31-30, Dallas, and there had been 13 lead changes and the teams had been tied nine times. Sessions converted the first 3-point of the night for Charlotte. Except he had to do it via three free throws because he was fouled on a shot attempt from beyond the line.
Among the subs, it was all Ramon Sessions, who scored seven points in six minutes and all his points were from free throws. As a team, the Hornets started 10-for-10 from the free throw line. Jeremy Lamb didn’t have a great run early in the second quarter, committing two quick fouls, then missing two good looks from the field in as many minutes.
Despite the success at the line, Charlotte still couldn’t buy a bucket from deep, starting the game 0-for-7 from deep. Dallas started 5-for-16 during that same stretch. Still, the dominance in the paint and great shooting at the line kept the Hornets in front, 36-34.
The Hornets rotated back to most their starters and it was back to Barnes vs. Kidd-Gilchrist. Some odd things happened in there, like MKG doubling on Williams, leaving Barnes open for a baseline make. Williams seemed to be causing Kemba a lot of problems in the first half. When MKG stayed with Barnes, he did good work on defense until he picked up a couple of quick fouls. Those fouls neutralized his aggressive defense and gave Barnes more room to work. Barnes finished the first half with 13 points, and Dallas ended the half with the lead thanks to an uninhibited coast-to-coast drive by Williams for the lay-in just before the buzzer, 50-48. Charlotte shot 0-for-9 from 3-point range for the half and Ramon Sessions co-led the Hornets in scoring and all his points came in six minutes from free throws.
The second half didn’t start off well, either. After a Charlotte basket, the Mavs went on a 10-0 run. Speaking of 10 points, Williams had 10 points and 8 assists at that point, Kemba had just 6 points and 2 assists and was getting absolutely bullied by Williams every trip down the floor. By the middle of the third quarter, the Hornets were 0-for-12 from 3 for the game and were down by as many as 11 at one point.
At this point, Kemba did a very Kemba thing and got his offense flowing. From down 11 to down two, Charlotte got back into the game mid-way through the third quarter. The defense wasn’t doing much for stretches and they only forced a total of four turnovers to that point in the game, the five-minute mark, but the score was 66-64, Dallas. Zeller was a bright spot early in that quarter. He continues to be a legitimate rim-rolling big at the NBA level.
Almost as quickly as the Hornets got back in the game, closing the third quarter on a 5-0 run, including their first 3-point make of the entire game with just 49 seconds left in the quarter courtesy of Belinelli.
They picked up the pace early in the fourth as Belinelli dropped another 3-point and Kidd-Gilchrist converted an and-one, given him a double-double for the game in points and rebounds. The Hornets momentarily got the lead back, 81-80. However, just as the Hornets started converting three-point plays, so did Dallas as Jonathan Gibson and Harrison Barnes knock down 3-points and Dallas went back into the lead, 86-85.
Down the line, the Hornets eventually extended their lead, in a small, slow way. Just when it seemed like they might run away with it, Deron Williams would hit a 3-pointer, or with a technical, they hit the free throw and then turn the ball over, squandering possession. After a pair of Jeremy Lamb free throws, Charlotte lead 100-93, less than four minutes to go. As a team, the Hornets were awful from 3-point range, but absolutely on point from the free throw line. With their largest lead of the night at 103-95, the team was 23-of-24 on free throws.
Jeremy Lamb thoroughly corrected that nearly disastrous starter to his night in the second quarter and repaid Steve Clifford’s faith in him with clutch free throws down the final stretches of the game. The Mavs pushed right at the end to make it too close for comfort, but the Hornets closed it out and got a huge road victory, 109-101. Nicolas Batum was named player of the game, but that was definitely either Marco Belinelli or Jeremy Lamb, take your pick.