It's over. It's over. It's finally over. The Charlotte pro basketball team's six-year losing streak to Lebron James ended on Wednesday night. The Hornets defeated the King's Cleveland Cavaliers 106-97 inside Time Warner Cable Arena to end a 23-game losing streak to the league's best player.
With new head coach Tyronn Lue, James' Cavs entered Wednesday's contest on a five-game winning streak, putting up at least 110 points in each game. No Lebron James team had ever put together a scoring streak like that.
Cleveland looked like a train that was simply going to blow through Charlotte. Hornets star Kemba Walker was a gameday scratch because of a sore knee, forcing him to miss his first game of the season. Steve Clifford was getting Nicolaus Batum, Jeremy Lamb and Cody Zeller back but they were preparing to face an elite opponent without their leader.
With Walker out, Marvin Williams became the only Hornet to not miss a game this year. And he led Charlotte out of the gates tonight, scoring the team's first five points and eight of their first 12. James was held without a field goal for the first seven minutes but the Hornets were mainly benefiting from Cleveland missing open looks. Charlotte outrebounded the Cavs in the first quarter 18-7 and outscored them 9-4 in the period's final minutes to tie the game at 23 heading into the second quarter.
The Hornets began the next quarter by making their first three attempts from the field, a Lamb three-pointer, a Frank Kaminsky jumper and a Brian Roberts bucket. After missing nine of the last 10 games, Lamb came back with his spring and scored seven points in his first eight minutes of playing time. But the story of the second quarter was the rookie. Kaminsky scored 10 points in the first nine minutes, showing off his improved touch and finishing skills around the basket.
As well as Charlotte's bench was playing though, Cleveland had another gear as the Hornets went cold. The Cavs outscored Charlotte 15-2 over the final 4:28 out of the first half. JR Smith hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer to give Cleveland a nine-point, 58-49, lead going into the break.
Two things weren't happening in the first half: 1) Batum wasn't scoring and 2) Cleveland wasn't turning the ball over. The Frenchman is always a threat to start making his shots and assistant coach Stephen Silas said at halftime that Charlotte would increase their ball pressure. Batum scored five straight points to open the second half and Cleveland committed their first turnover of the game at the 10:41 mark of the third quarter.
The Hornets went on to make nine of their first 13 shot attempts and took the lead midway through the third quarter. Charlotte put it on Cleveland in the period, turning the game into a borderline ass-kicking. Their offense was there but there defense had become impenetrable. The Cavs scored just 17 points in the quarter compared to the Hornets' 33. Jeremy Lin and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist outscored Cleveland in the quarter by themselves, combining for 18 points. Clifford's bunch obtained their lead at the 5:48 mark in the third quarter and would never give it back.
Spencer Hawes provided Charlotte with six points in the fourth quarter's opening minutes, expanding the Cleveland deficit to double-digits. When the Hornets seemed to be running away with the game, the James curse began its inevitable rise. Lebron was able to conjure up six points in a two-minute span to cut Charlotte's lead to six. The building grew somewhat tense during the King's threat but the Hornets lead never dipped below that six-point mark thanks to tonight's hero.
Lin stepped in as the starting point guard in Walker's absence. He had played well all night, including his 11-point third quarter but he released a Linsanity-esque string of heroics in the final minutes. With Cleveland knocking on the door, Lin supplied six points in a two-minute span to match James' run. The last basket, a twisting lay-up with 1:05 to play, inspired Lin to flex and scream heading to the bench as the Hive came alive.
After a week on the road, the Charlotte Hornets began their homestand about as well as they possibly could have.