The Charlotte Hornets played their second game in three days at the Staples Center on Tuesday night in Los Angeles. After reeling from the heartbreaking overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, they hoped to rebound against a young Los Angeles Lakers team and pick up a much needed win in L.A.
Cody Zeller was back on Tuesday night, but under a minutes restriction from head coach Steve Clifford , the big man ended up playing 18 minutes and finishing with six points and five rebounds on the night, but maybe his presence was a confidence factor for the Hornets on Tuesday.
The Hornets were on fire from three in the first half, shooting at a 60 percent clip while converting on nine of their 15 shots from behind the arc. Charlotte got to the free throw line early, but struggled and couldn’t take full advantage of the opportunities, as Zeller missed four in a row from the line. The Hornets would reel off a 13-0 run in the second quarter and push their lead out to 10 at 43-33, looking to pull away from a team for a change would’ve been nice, but the game became closer with Julius Randle reinserting himself from his quick opening minutes and eventually tying the game at 46. The Hornets struggled for the second game in a row containing the power forward position, Blake Griffin took them for 43 points on Sunday and Randle grabbed 18 rebounds on 23 points on Tuesday night. The Hornets would grab the lead again and push it up to eight, before the Lakers would crawl back in it and set the tone for the back and forth battle. At the break the Hornets led by three at 58-55. The Hornets shot 47 percent from the field in the first half as Kemba Walker led the way with 16 points.
The third quarter was a closely matched contest, with the largest lead from any team being five by the Hornets. Nicolas Batum would continue to have a quiet night in the second half and finish with only five points, but he would come up huge in the final minutes on the defensive end of the ball. At the end of the third quarter it was 82-80 Lakers.
The Hornets have been struggling to win close games lately and have squandered two leads on this road trip, as this game was heading down to the wire the Hornets needed their leader to step up; and he did. Kemba drained a 17-foot two-point shot to put the Hornets up one and then a huge 3-pointer after Jordan Clarkson retook the lead with a jumper of his own. The 3-pointer by Kemba put the Hornets up by two at 100-98 and never relinquished the lead thanks to clutch free throws and a huge block by Batum on a seemingly wide open Clarkson, cutting to the basket for a layup. If that shot went, the lead would have been cut to three. Instead in a four point swing, two free throws at the other end by Frank Kaminsky put the Hornets up seven. The Lakers made a push with two straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to three, but two free throws by Kemba sealed the win for the Hornets at 109-104. Bemba finished with 30 points and hit the 30 point mark for the second straight game. The Hornets are now 2-2 on this six game road trip and playing better basketball. Charlotte improved to 26-34 and remain 3 games behind the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.