Cheer up Charlotte sports fans. The Hornets are here and trying to fix your broken life.
Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, the city's NBA team earned a 108-91 over the Chicago Bulls. The win puts Charlotte at 26-26 and a half-game back of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference just days before the All-Star break. An amazing accomplishment with the injuries and schedule this team has seen so far this season.
The Bulls have suffered from their own injuries this season and they're reeling because of it. Chicago was already without Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah and Nikola Mirotic for Monday night's game. Derrick Rose did not warm-up because of an illness and the former MVP never entered the game.
Down four starters, the deck was stacked against the Bulls and the Hornets handled it as they should have. The home team took care of business from the opening tip, exploding for a 38-point first quarter. All five starters scored in a little over three minutes as Charlotte opened up an 11-4 lead early on. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist polished off two jumpers while fading away and gave the crowd a thrilling runner, putting the ball high off the glass for a bucket. MKG also finished in the paint and was the first Hornets player in double-figures, scoring 10 points in the game's first nine minutes.
Cody Zeller picked up two quick fouls and sat in favor of Spencer Hawes, who contributed seven points off the bench in the first quarter. Charlotte connected on five three-pointers in the opening period with Jeremy Lamb knocking one down with 0.6 seconds left on the clock.
Leading by 18 points entering the second quarter, the Hornets quickly made their lead 20. Transition was a better form of offense for Charlotte after their strong opener. With a big lead, Steve Clifford's bunch got one of impatient, relaxed or sloppy in the half-court during each possession. Charlotte still maintained their big lead thanks to Nicolas Batum. The talented Frenchman was controlling the game, getting himself involved in seemingly every play. It was the Batum we saw before a toe injury hampered him for a long stretch this season. The Hornets followed a great 38-point first quarter with an offensively subpar 19-point second quarter. Yet, the team held a 57-42 advantage at the break.
Charlotte extended their lead to 22 points by the end of the third quarter but a handful of key moments highlighted the period following halftime. Kidd-Gilchrist knocked down his third three-pointer of the season and Zeller followed with one of his own. Off an MKG offensive rebound, Batum got the ball and drove to his left, putting his head down before dishing a pass to a wide-open Zeller in the left corner. The third-year big man knocked down the trey, his first three-point make since November.
Kemba Walker finished with 30 points, his eighth 30+ point game of the season. His 23rd point of the night, a free throw in the third quarter, officially put him in fourth on the franchise scoring list, passing Glen Rice. Walker now only trails Larry Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Dell Curry. Walker contributed four three-pointers in tonight's win, giving him four treys in three consecutive games, the longest such streak of his career.
The Hornets, although continuously careless in the second half, polished off the Bulls with an MKG dunk and Batum three-pointer being the daggers in the final minutes. Chicago was able to cut Charlotte's deficit to 12 but never threatened more than that thanks to an 8-2 run by the home team.
Walker's 30-point effort was a game-high but Kidd-Gilchrist managed a new season-high 20 points, hitting 7-of-14 attempts from the field. Batum tallied 19 points and eight assists to go along with a season-high 13 rebounds. Hawes completed his second consecutive outing with double-digit scoring off the bench, finishing with 13 points.
This team won three out of four games during their home stand and head off to Indiana for the first time this season in their last game before the All-Star break. With the Toronto Raptors holding off the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte is just a half-game back of the No. 8 seed, and now owns the tiebreaker over Chicago.