The Charlotte Hornets came away with a commanding 108-101 victory against the Indiana Pacers Friday night, sweeping the three-game season series for the first time in franchise history. The Hornets have now won nine of their last 11 games, and are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference. Needless to say, the Hornets are on quite the roll.
While the Pacers were within five points for most of the game and even led at one point, the Hornets battled back late with the Hornets' backcourt duo of Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum contributing 13 of the Hornets' last 18 points. Walker finished with 33 points and 10 assists on the night, while Batum finished with an equally impressive 31 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Paul George finished with 35 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and a block for the Pacers.
The first quarter saw George get off to a hot start, scoring 12 of the Pacers' 30 points. Luckily, Batum found his stroke after a prolonged stretch of less-than-good shooting games and was able to give the Hornets a one-point lead heading into the second period.
Walker took the reigns in the second quarter, hitting two of his four 3-pointers and scoring this unbelievable layup in transition:
The Hornets went into the half with a 55-50 lead.
It was the third quarter that the Pacers finally outscored the Hornets, 32-25, which eventually allowed them to take a seven-point lead. Batum and Walker kept the Hornets in the game, however, and went into the fourth quarter down 82-80.
And that's when everything changed. Initially, Al Jefferson came alive, dominating in the post with his patented hook shot. When the Pacers decided to double him, Jefferson hit a slicing Jeremy Lamb for an easy layup beneath the basket.
Head coach Steve Clifford subbed Walker into the game shortly after, who, to no one's surprise, made huge play after huge play for the Hornets late. He dished out three assists and scored six points in the final six minutes of the game. But at that point, everyone was hitting shots. The Hornets shot 50 percent from the field in the fourth quarter.
This game showed us that the Hornets are capable of playing at another level when they need to. Yes, they allowed the Pacers to stick around for most of the game, but when it mattered most, they were focused on the task at hand. Their defense and offensive execution was sublime down the stretch. They're definitely a playoff team. Definitely.
Tonight's win also moves Clifford into third place for all-time wins in franchise history. He's tied with Dave Cowens at 109. Only Paul Silas and Allan Bristow have more wins.
And lastly, I need one of these.
Kemba Walker addresses the media on Hugo the mascot cap night. pic.twitter.com/vI6CY6tM2x— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) March 5, 2016
The Hornets' next game is on Monday, against the Minnesota Timberwolves.