Sure, it wasn't the prettiest of wins. But a win is still a win, and Friday night's 98-95 victory over Milwaukee means the Charlotte Hornets have tied a season high with their fourth-straight win, improving to 28-26 and keeping a hold of the seven seed in the Eastern Conference (thanks to owning the tiebreaker over Chicago).
But how did the Hornets earn that victory?
Remember when the Hornets were a really good defensive team, and having a solid quarter wasn't really noteworthy? Well, Charlotte's fourth quarter defense was reminiscent of those days, and was done without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Bucks entered the fourth quarter with 78 points, shooting 46 percent from the field and had 13 turnovers. The Hornets held them to just 17 points, 37.5 field foal percentage and forced nine turnovers.
It was the Bucks' sloppy play that allowed Charlotte back into the game. The Hornets looked like they were on the ropes, down 13 in the third quarter. But the team locked down defensively, especially the Two Jeremys (Lamb and Lin), who combined for seven of Charlotte's 13 steals — which was a season-high, besting the 12 the team forced against Orlando on December 16.
Zeller and Lamb to the rescue
Cody Zeller and Jeremy Lamb picked a good night to have a good game. On a night when Nicolas Batum and Jeremy Lin combined to shoot 4-of-19 from the field, Zeller and Lamb stepped up when the team needed them most. Zeller scored a season-high 23 points and a team-high nine rebounds, and Lamb chipped in with 14 points off the bench and the aforementioned solid defense to help Charlotte get back in the game. The play of Zeller and Lamb played a large part in the Hornets' comeback win.
Sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good
Honestly, Charlotte was fortunate to win last night. All the signs seemed to be pointing to a Milwaukee win for the longest time. Despite feeling like they outplayed the Bucks in the first half, the Hornets never held a lead of more than six and were tied at halftime. Milwaukee, which averages five made 3s a game, had that by the end of the first half. The Bucks outshot (44.4 FG% to 43%), outrebounded (47 to 37) and outassisted (22 to 13) the Hornets. Milwaukee forced 17 turnovers and blocked 11 shots. Their length, which has given Charlotte numerous fits, seemed like it would be too much to overcome. Charlotte even nearly handed the game to the Bucks, turning the ball over again on an inbound pass with a chance to seal the game.
Charlotte won this game because the Bucks turned the ball over 22 times and did not convert when they needed to most, while the Hornets did convert when they needed to. Now we'll see if that luck and winning streak continues Sunday in Brooklyn.