The Charlotte Hornets failed to overcome a 21-point deficit against the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon, losing 112-103 despite strong second-half efforts from Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin. The loss drops the Hornets to the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, with only six games remaining on their schedule.
The Hornets came out flat against the Cavs, allowing Cleveland to go into the second quarter with a 29-19 lead, and eventually a 58-42 lead going into the half. While the Cavs' defense limited Charlotte's ability to get open looks from beyond the arc, the Hornets also missed a few good ones. To top things off, the Hornets' defense lacked the physicality and attention to detail needed to stop the Cavaliers from scoring. At the half, the Hornets had shot 38.1 percent from the field while allowing the Cavs to shoot a clean 60 percent.
With Kyrie Irving out for the Cavs, LeBron James was forced to play 41 minutes to halt numerous runs from the Hornets. Kemba Walker scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half, the majority in spectacular fashion, and if not for the gut-wrenchingly poor defense played on J.R. Smith and Kevin Love, the Hornets might've pulled this one out. Smith and Love combined to shoot 11-of-17 on 3-pointers, and the Cavs as a team shot 55.2 percent from behind the arc.
The Hornets were able to whittle the Cavs' lead down to four points, 98-94, with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, but quick 3-pointers from Smith and Love ensured the Hornets' comeback attempt was a futile one. Walker and Jeremy Lin's late heroics just weren't enough.
Marvin Williams once again did phenomenal work on both ends of the floor, finishing with 22 points, six rebounds, and three assists in 38 minutes. Williams was tasked with guarding Love or LeBron for most of the game (depending on matchups), and somehow managed to anchor the Hornets' interior defense reasonably well, too. He finished with a team-high +8 in plus/minus, a stat that has limitations with small samples, but one that was wholly reflective of his contributions tonight.
Without Al Jefferson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (who was crucial in the Hornets' win against the Cavs a couple of months ago), and Nicolas Batum (who left the game with a sprained left knee at the half), the Hornets did well against the Cavs, even though they too were missing a key piece – Kyrie Irving.
The Hornets' next game is on Tuesday against the Toronto Raptors.