Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 26 points, going 4-for-6 from the 3-point line; while Dwight Howard finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds but shot just 5-for-15 from the free throw line. For the Rockets, Eric Gordon scored 26 points, while Ryan Anderson added 21.
Both teams got off to a fast start. The Hornets held an early lead, but a trio of 3-pointers from Ryan Anderson single-handily kept it close. Dwight Howard continued to dominate inside, totaling eight points and eight rebounds in the first quarter.
The Hornets opened up a 22-16 lead, but Houston trimmed it to 22-21 with roughly 2:30 remaining in the quarter. Charlotte kept the lead at one possession, heading into the second quarter leading 30-27.
Howard made the early headlines, but Jeremy Lamb started strong as well, going 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in route to nine, first-quarter points. He was limited from that point for stretches of the second and third quarters, but managed to finish with 20 points.
The second unit held the lead for the early minutes of the second quarter, but P.J. Tucker gave Houston a three point lead off a corner-3 at the 8:25 mark. Poor shot selection, particularly from Malik Monk, helped Houston back in it. The Rockets built an eight point lead, forcing Clifford to bring Walker and Howard back into the game.
With limited scoring options on the floor, Walker forced a lot of shots and looked to draw contact. Neither proved effective, and Houston’s lead grew to double digits. Five straight points from Walker cut Houston’s lead to 10, and the teams entered halftime with the score 56-46 in favor of Houston. The Rockets, averaging around 32 3-point attempts per game, attempted that many in the first half. The high volume of 3’s continued into the second half.
Charlotte came out with the right mindset after halftime, opening the third quarter on a 6-0 run. They eventually cut Houston’s lead to just two, but then two consecutive 3-pointers from the Rockets pushed it back to eight. The Hornets played good defense on three or four occasions, but Harden, Gordon, and Luc Mbah a Moute knocked down contested 3’s at the end of the shot clock, maintaining their lead and demoralizing the Hornets.
The score remained close for much of the third, but Charlotte couldn’t make enough stops to overcome the defecit. Walker went on a mini-run to end the third, cutting Houston’s lead to four.
With the second unit struggling to find offense, Walker remained on the floor at the start of the fourth. The Hornets remained within striking distance the rest of the quarter, but could never mount the needed run to comeback. Eventually, Houston pulled away late, and came away with the win.
Charlotte’s starting five held their own with Houston, but the second unit underperformed, scoring just 21 points. Monk finished with 10, but made poor shot attempts, often settling for pull-up shots off the dribble. Frank Kaminsky had a poor game as well, scoring just eight points on 3-for-11 from the field. Johnny O’Bryant III and Dwayne Bacon combined for the remaining three.
Houston finished 22-of-57 from the 3-point line. By comparison, Charlotte made just 11-of-29. Many of Houston’s came late in the shot clock, and from well outside the arc. If a few of those don’t drop, this could’ve been a little closer late in the game.
But Houston made them, and dropped Charlotte to 2-3 on the season. It isn’t the best start, but the Hornets are showing glimpses of good play. With a healthy roster, these glimpses should turn into longer stretches, much like what we saw on Wednesday night.
They will have tomorrow off before playing the Magic at home on Sunday at 6:00 p.m.