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Hornets, down 20, beat Hawks by 18 in home opener

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The Hornets made the mightiest of comebacks behind huge games from Dwight Howard and Kemba Walker.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

I thought the Hornets would lose tonight.

Boy, was I wrong.

The Hornets managed to turn a 20-point first half deficit into an 18-point win against the Hawks Friday night, and was it something to behold. Kemba Walker led the team with 26 points and nine assists, while Dwight Howard chipped in 20 points and 15 rebounds against his former squad.

I mean, I’m shocked.

The Hornets entered tonight’s game without Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Cody Zeller, and Michael Carter-Williams against a mostly healthy Hawks club. In typical Hornets fashion, the team stumbled out of the gates with an 18-point first quarter and 15 first half turnovers.

Hornets head coach Steve Clifford presumably strangled a stranger with his bare hands at the half to prove a point, as once the second half rolled around the Hornets were a completely different team. They limited the Hawks to 35 points in the entire half after giving up 56 in the first.

Credit where it’s due—Dwight played a major role in this victory. I counted four dunks for him tonight, and frankly no one could bother him inside on either end. He was exactly what the Hornets hoped he’d be.

Of course, timely buckets from Kemba also turned the tables. He didn’t just hit 3-pointers, either. He sliced and diced his way to the rim for some absolutely gorgeous finishes.

Exhibit A:

Look, the next few weeks are going to be tough for the Hornets. Without Batum their offense is fairly predictable, so barring a role player getting hot or Kemba carrying the team we’re in store for some very frustrating losses.

After all, 12 of their next 17 games are against last year’s playoff teams.

They’ll need guys like Malik Monk and Marvin Williams to step up. Monk in particular’s had a rough go early this season. After finishing 1-of-9 in his debut on Wednesday, Monk shot 2-of-7 from the field tonight. Some of it is nerves, sure, but he’s taking some terrible shots.

In fact, check out this tweet from our friends over at Baseline Buzz:

Yeah.

The Hawks aren’t the greatest team this year—I don’t think they make the playoffs—so take this win with a grain of salt. Charlotte will have to prove themselves without Batum over the next couple of weeks against some very good teams. That said, getting MKG and Zeller back should help stabilize the rotation and inject some experience back into the lineup.

The second unit has been abysmal this year and they can’t get back soon enough.

The Hornets’ next game is on Monday against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks.