This summer the Charlotte Hornets went through a major change in terms of philosophy, seeking to add as much outside shooting and spacing to one of the league's plainest attacks. Today should have been a day to celebrate the work that went into that movement, yet, it ended in an 87-76 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
In the second quarter, Jeremy Lamb made the Hornets 592nd 3-pointer of the season - a new franchise record for made 3-point field goals in a season. The previous record of 591 belongs to the 1996-97 Hornets. Lamb's addition, along with the acquisition of Nicolas Batum, Spencer Hawes and the drafting of Frank Kaminsky, turned Rich Cho's 3-point shooting dreams into a reality.
Irony set in on Sunday afternoon in Atlanta when a day that contained an overall shot-making achievement also marked one of Charlotte's worst shooting performances of the season.
The Hornets hit just two of their 21 field goal attempts in the first quarter against the Hawks. The game was tied at 4-4 early on and as Charlotte went cold, Atlanta pounced with a 12-0 run. The first period ended with a 25-9 advantage for the home team. The nine points were a Charlotte season low for points scored in a quarter this season — the previous low being a 12-point fourth quarter on Jan. 1 against Toronto.
The Hawks assault didn't stop after the transition to the second quarter. Atlanta quickly increased their lead to 20, forcing Steve Clifford to call a timeout.
From the very tip, Atlanta had trouble with turnovers, but for much of the opening period, Charlotte was having a hard time making them pay for their mistakes. The Hornets did a better job of turning defense into offense in the second quarter. They turned 11 Atlanta first half turnovers into 13 points.
The Hawks led by as much as 24 during the second quarter but Charlotte trimmed their deficit all the way down to 14 before halftime. Clifford's bunch finished the first half on a 20-10 run, sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers from Marvin Williams.
Batum finished with 0 points in the opening periods as he and Kemba Walker combined to shoot 1-of-11 from the floor. The Frenchman scored in the opening minutes of the third quarter and the offense's revival seemed to be in full effect after a streaky second quarter.
Charlotte raced out to an 11-2 run to open the second half, pounding Atlanta's lead down to just five points. Jeff Teague knocked down a trey to put the Hawks back up by eight. Atlanta quickly pushed their lead to 14. Then all of a sudden it was a 17-point advantage. Another Teague 3-pointer concluded a 12-0 Hawks run after the Hornets were able to make it a two-possession game. A mini Charlotte run towards the end of the quarter trimmed Atlanta's lead to 11 entering the final quarter of play.
Like in the third quarter, the Hornets came out guns blazing in the fourth. Led by the bench unit, Charlotte tore off an 11-2 run to get within a basket of a tie game. Jeremy Lin scored five points in about 30 seconds and Lamb drove and completed the run with a finger roll to put Charlotte within two of Atlanta.
Also similar to the third quarter, the Hawks were there with a response. The home team put up five quick points. The Hornets continued to battle though. They trimmed the lead to five with just over four minutes left in the game.
Coming off an emotional win and on the last game of a long road trip, Charlotte ran out of gas in Sunday's final minutes. Atlanta outscored the Hornets 10-4 down the stretch to secure the win and the tiebreaker over Charlotte.
It's a tough loss to swallow as it's the final act of an incredible month for this team. Their seven wins in February are the most in this month since 2002. That success should continue as Charlotte heads home with an easy slate of games ahead.