The Charlotte Hornets finally won a game, but there was little to feel good about.
The result was in doubt until the final seconds, as the Brooklyn Nets hung around thanks to late heroics from Bojan Bogdanovic and Brook Lopez. Up by 9 with 38 seconds to go, the Nets cut the lead to three in a mere 20 seconds. If you’ve watched enough of the team this season, its unlikely Brooklyn’s comeback surprised you.
Charlotte has a problem putting opponents away. Too often this season they have held double-digit leads while looking in control of the game, only to have that lead erased, and we only have to go as far back as their January 28th loss to the Knicks to find a recent example. Watching them blow a 17 point halftime lead last night only served as a needed reminder that breaking a losing streak doesn’t erase a team’s problems.
But good lord, what a difference in halves. Brooklyn was held to 37 points in the first half, only to score 70 points in the second (35 points in each quarter). 18 of Lopez’s 20 points came in the second half, while Bogdanovic scored 10 in the fourth quarter. Charlotte also struggled defending Trevor Booker, who scored all 10 of his total points in the second half.
Thankfully, Charlotte managed 27 and 30 points in the final two quarters, but it was a poor start to the third that allowed the Nets back in. The Hornets scored just five points in the first four minutes of the quarter — an and-1 layup by Kemba Walker, and a layup from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They wouldn’t score again for a roughly a minute and a half following MKG’s bucket, meanwhile, Brooklyn scored 15 points from the start of the quarter to pull within single digits. They eventually got within six, but Charlotte was able slow their run, and head into the fourth leading by 9.
Then the forth quarter rolled around, and Charlotte was able to build a double digit lead more than once, but Brooklyn hung around, and nearly almost took the lead.
I can understand blowing a 17 point lead to Golden State and a handful of other teams atop the NBA, but this is Brooklyn, a team that’s dead last in the league, dead last in points allowed, and still looking for its 10th win of the season. This is a team, that when up 17 at halftime, you lock in for the first five minutes of third, push your lead out to 25, and look to get your starters a lot of rest in the fourth quarter so Ray McCallum can shoot his shot and break into the rotation.
Clearly, Charlotte wasn’t interested in that, or rather, Brooklyn was more interested in coming back. Seldom have we seen Charlotte take advantage of a good start and build on it. They managed to do it against Toronto, but that sort of game has been far too rare.
We know that Charlotte has, for the most part, struggled at the start and end of games ranking in the bottom half or third in the league in points allowed, while playing at their best in the second and third quarters. But only defending well for half the game isn’t winning basketball, and last night’s second half is going to get them beat on most nights.
The silver lining of course, is that last night’s poor second half didn’t cost them the game. It was a game they were supposed to win, and they did (it just didn’t go nearly as smoothly as they’d hoped). With the losing streak ended, we can momentarily relax knowing the streak won’t be going to double-digits. But if there’s any momentum to take from it, they’re going to need it. With three more homes games coming up, winning at least two of the next three is important, because a seven game road trip looms, and there’s little to feel optimistic about given their play on the road for most of the season. If that team from November and December is still out there somewhere, now would be the time to show up again.