The Charlotte Hornets bounced back from their worst stretch of the season with a much needed 107-85 win over the visiting Portland Trail Blazers.
Kemba Walker led the charge for the Hornets, putting in a stats-don't-tell-the-whole-story-line of 23 points, two rebounds, five assists, three steals, and one turnover on 57 percent shooting, and went 4-of-8 from the 3-point line.
Charlotte was coming off of a brutal two week road trip which saw them drop five games in a row, while exhibiting troubling lapses in defensive intensity. Prior to Wednesday night, the Hornets hadn't won since their last game at home, a 123-112 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on January 4.
This game was a desperately needed affirmation of what the Hornets are capable of, and reminiscent of the fun, over-achieving squad that jumped out to an 8-3 start to the season.
Nicolas Batum did Nicolas Batum stuff, notching 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Marvin Williams and Frank Kaminsky chipped in eight and 11 points respectively, and Marco Belinelli had a return to form in his role of second unit leader, adding 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.
Going in to the game, the Blazers dynamic offensive backcourt combination of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum was a huge concern. The Hornets have struggled mightily against individual scorers this season, and Portland’s two pronged attack at the guard positions is one of the very best in the league.
Charlotte was able to contain the explosive pair to 39 points on 39 percent shooting. With Portland’s stars struggling to find their rhythym in the second half, the Hornets got back to doing what they do best: playing intense, swarming defense and moving the basketball.
Perhaps the biggest story of the night was the at least brief rejuvenation of backup center Roy Hibbert. The former All-Star and perennial defensive team stalwart has largely been a dissapointment for the most part this year, but on Wednesday night he was flat out incredible. Hibbert checked into the game in the first half and immediately dropped seven straight points, playint tough defense and dIving on loose balls. He was ostensibly the main factor in swinging the momentum over to the Hornets after a rocky first quarter. Charlotte never trailed again. Hibbert finished with 16 points, six rebounds and two blocks, on 7-of-8 shooting.
This was a good win for a team that was in danger of spiraling out of control, and showed some much needed resiliency and pride. While it might not be indicative of who they are, it did show us another glimpse of who they could be.