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Hornets head to the All-Star break with a 90-85 loss to the Raptors

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Even after holding a 17-point lead after three quarters, the Hornets are unable to hold on to a much needed win, losing to the Raptors 90-85.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Sigh.

In that one word, the entire game is summarized.

It started ugly and ended ugly for the Charlotte Hornets tonight as they fell for the fourth straight time in a 90-85 loss to the Toronto Raptors. As they head to the All-Star break, they’ll have to find a way to move past what has been a 1-11 stretch over the last 12 games.

Disguised as the Huskies, Toronto hadn’t been too hot either as of late, dropping 11 of their last 15.

I have said it a whole lot lately, but here it comes again: the Hornets desperately miss Cody Zeller. Is Zeller for sure going to put this team back into their winning ways? Maybe not. But, it’s hard to write this team off until he’s made a full return to the lineup.

On the season now, the Hornets are 2-15 without Zeller in the rotation. However, in his place tonight, Frank Kaminsky scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed five boards. Kaminsky helped keep the game within reach after a poor first quarter, scoring seven points.

While poor first quarters have been a major problem for the Hornets this season, it didn’t effect them as badly as it has over the course of the season. In the second quarter, thanks to Kemba Walker, the Hornets fought back from down 14 went on a 12-2 run to cut the deficit to 44-41 at the half. Walker scored 12 in the frame and hit all four shots he took from beyond the arc.

Similar to many other games this season, the third quarter was where the Hornets made a run for it. Outscoring the Raptors 34-14 throughout the quarter gave them a 75-58 lead heading into the fourth. Kaminsky was spectacular, scoring 15 points while playing all 12 minutes of the quarter. After closing out the third in spectacular fashion with a Kaminsky finger roll layup and a Marco Belinelli 3-point make, everything pointed towards a Hornets victory, until the fourth.

The Raptors came out swinging in the final quarter, scoring 15 unanswered points, which eventually led to a 20-2 run that gave them back the lead, 78-77. Cory Joseph and and Delon Wright provided a spark off the bench combining for 14 points in the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan

In fact, their presence was so impactful that Raptors coach, Dwane Casey elected not to put All-Star DeMar DeRozan back into the game during the fourth quarter. Thanks to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s outstanding defense, DeRozan went 5/19 from the field with three turnovers. It was a bold move, but it was the right move.

Along with his standout defense, Kidd-Gilchrist grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, scored six points and had a pair of blocks and steals.

Unfortunately, the Hornets got shaky performances from the other two starters not mentioned yet. Marvin Williams only scored five points and shot 2/9 from the floor. Nicolas Batum scored 10 points and dished out five assists, but had six turnovers, including three crucial ones in the fourth quarter.

His biggest turnover came when the Hornets trailed by 3 85-82 with 1:41 remaining, as he threw an arrant pass that was intercepted by Wright and laid in for an easy two on the other end. While Batum proceeded to hit a big 3-pointer a minute later, DeMarre Carroll hit the 3-point dagger with seven seconds left to extend the lead to 5 and solidify the final score, 90-85.

A 17-point lead blown. Another loss.

Arguably, there isn’t another team that needs the All-Star break more than the Hornets. In their recent free-fall, the team has found themselves with a 24-32 record compared to the 27-26 mark at this time last season.

Now two and a half games outside the playoff picture, the Hornets need a major turnaround for the second half of the season, even it means they have to be active before the February 23 trade deadline.

Most importantly, they’ll have to start beating the better teams of the league considering they now hold a 7-19 record against teams with a .500 record or above.