Late in the fourth quarter, Hornets up, with the ball. All they have to do is milk the clock and get a basket, and they all but ensure a gigantic victory over a divisional rival.
Friday night, the Charlotte Hornets faced this scenario against the Miami Heat and completely unraveled, turning the ball over on consecutive possessions. Saturday night, Charlotte had a chance to atone for their sins from a night earlier, and they made sure not to miss the opportunity against the Washington Wizards.
1. A new clutch pairing?
Friday night, a combination of Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum — the hot hands — were given the chance to put away Miami, and failed spectacularly.
Saturday night, the ball remained in the hands of Walker late, to no one's surprise. But, he combined with a new teammate, one who could be considered anything but a hot hand that night, to secure the victory — Jeremy Lin. Lin entered the fourth quarter with just two points on two shots, but he would finish the quarter with five huge points, including layups when Charlotte needed points most.
Combined with Walker, who scored nine points in the fourth quarter, the Hornets were able to overcome their demons from just 24 hours previous and leave Time Warner Cable Arena with a big win over the Wizards, who entered the night just one game behind Charlotte in the Eastern Conference standings. The victory also ensures that the Hornets will at worst split the season series against the Wizards, which could be huge come playoff time.
2. Adjustments helped overcome a slow start
After watching the first half, you would be hard pressed to believe that Saturday night's game would be a nail-biter. Both teams started off on completely different feet — the Wizards red hot and dominating nearly every facet of the game, the Hornets sloppy, slow and unable to make even the easiest of shots. Charlotte found themselves down nearly 20 midway through the second quarter in what looked like it would soon become a blowout.
The Hornets committed eight turnovers in the first half, close to their per game average. Washington, who came into the game averaging 18 fast break points per game, had 21 by halftime. Charlotte's bench, long one of the team's biggest strengths, was being thoroughly outplayed by an opponent for the second consecutive evening, outscored 15-7 through the first 24 minutes.
Charlotte began making adjustments and shot late in the second quarter to help turn the game around. Led by Batum, who scored 13 of his team-high 26 points in the second quarter, led the Hornets on a 10-1 run to end the first half and bring Charlotte within 10 of the Wizards at halftime (Batum would finish the evening with his eighth double-double of the year, second-most among shooting guards, and just one assist shy of a triple-double). It continued into the third quarter, when Charlotte outscored Washington, 30-17, to take control.
After allowing Washington to show 52.4 percent from the floor in the first half, Charlotte's defense locked the Wizards down in the second half, forcing them to shoot just 36.4 percent. After scoring 21 fast break points in the first half, Washington would get just five in the second half. It was these adjustments and lockdown defense that helped turn the game around and, eventually, give Charlotte the W.
3. A piece of history
Saturday night also saw a piece of history, but not necessarily the good kind. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished Saturday's showdown with nine points, two assists, one steal and zero rebounds.
You did not misread that. Kidd-Gilchrist was not credited with a single rebound, shockingly against the worst rebounding team in the National Basketball Association.
What may be even more surprising is that this is not the first time he had gone a full game without a rebound. According to StatMuse, it was actually the fourth time. The three previous such games? January 26, 2013 against Minnesota; March 2, 2014 against Oklahoma City; and just five days later — March 7, 2014 against Cleveland.