Dwayne Bacon hit the first shot of the game to give Charlotte a 3-0 lead. San Antonio responded with seven straight, but a runner from Kemba Walker and a 3-pointer from Marvin Williams put them back on top. Midway through the first, the Spurs held an 11-8 lead. The score remained close the rest of the quarter as the team’s exchanged small leads. The Spurs built a six point lead with under a minute remaining, as the Hornets second unit struggled to convert solid looks, and entered the second quarter leading 25-19.
The game remained close to start the second quarter. Charlotte found the net a couple of times, but continued to struggle a bit shooting the ball. Lamb had a strong quarter, scoring five points to lead all scorers with 10 midway through. Spurs guard Bryn Forbes had a nice half in route to nine first half points, helping his team jump out to an seven point lead with around four minutes remaining. Charlotte cut that lead down slightly, and entered halftime trailing 49-45.
San Antonio maintained a small lead in the early minutes of the third, but seven straight points from Dwight Howard, followed by a five straight from Bacon gave Charlotte it’s first lead since the first quarter. The Hornets built a 64-58 lead, thanks largely from the efforts of both players. Howard went to work in the post, forcing the Spurs to double-team him. Bacon, meanwhile, took high percentage shots in route to seven third quarter points. However, Rudy Gay erased Charlotte’s lead, scoring five straight to tie it at 66. The second unit struggled to score from that point, and San Antonio opened up a nine point lead, its biggest of the game to that point. Gay continued to perform, and put the Spurs up by 10 with 30 seconds remaining. A 3-pointer from Treveon Graham cut it to seven, but Forbes scored a buzzer beater to give them a 80-71 lead.
It got worse to start the fourth. Charlotte got down as much as 13, and looked close to being put away. Clifford brought a few of the starters back in, and two consecutive corner 3’s from Lamb cut the deficit to five. Charlotte went on a 9-0 run, but the Spurs responded, jump started by an actual slam dunk by Manu Ginobili (this actually happened). Lamb continued to keep the Hornets in it, but Spurs remained dialed in. A couple of 3-pointers later, Charlotte found themselves down 11. Lamb cut the score to five late, but Patty Mills responded with a 3-pointer on the other end. Howard converted a three-point play to cut it to five again; then, Charlotte nearly cut it to three after stealing the ball in the backcourt. The ball came to Bacon, but he made the wrong decision and forced a contested 2-pointer.
A couple of sticking points went in San Antonio’s favor. For one, their bench outscored Charlotte’s 64-16, led by 22 points from Forbes and 20 from Gay. No Hornets bench player scored in double figures. This comes two nights after Charlotte’s bench proved the difference in a win against the Bucks. It speaks to something Steve Clifford said post-game: the Hornets have too many players performing well one night, but not the next. That extends to the defense end as well, where the team didn’t play well enough on that end for 48 minutes. There were certainly stretches, particularly in the second half, where Charlotte looked dialed in, but the stretches didn’t last long enough.
Poor bench scoring aside, Walker struggled as well, finishing with just 13 points on 4-12 shooting. The Spurs game planned well for him, making it difficult for him to find driving lanes and open shots.
Despite trailing for much of the game, Charlotte felt in it until late in the third quarter. The strong finish from San Antonio gave them a fairly commanding lead. Nine points isn’t a lot in the NBA, but the Spurs don’t often blow those kinds of leads.
So Charlotte falls to 5-4. They will be tested again on Sunday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.