Late game heroics from Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams earned the Charlotte Hornets an important win over the Toronto Raptors, 110-106. Marco Belinelli lead the Hornets with 21 points, while DeMar Derozan lead all scorers with 28.
Tonight’s first quarter went much better than Tuesday’s, particularly on the defensive end. That said, Hornets didn’t score for the first three and a half minutes until Nicolas Batum knocked down a 3-pointer. This prompted a 9-2 run, which gave them their first lead of the game.
Batum was the early scoring leader, knocking down 9 of his team’s first 13 points on 4-6 shooting. It was certainly a much better start for him, after scoring just five points last night against Milwaukee.
Charlotte held Toronto to just 19 first quarter points, and ended the quarter with a three point lead.
Making his first appearance in a while was Miles Plumlee, who finished with five points in 15 minutes. He made an impact early in the second quarter, scoring twice from down low as Charlotte looked to hold onto its small lead.
Others among the bench unit followed suit, including Frank Kaminsky, who started the game 3-4 from beyond the arc. His third 3-pointer, followed by a fast break layup on the following possession, gave Charlotte an eight point lead two minutes into the second quarter.
Kaminsky scored 12 points in the first half before committing his third foul and sitting the rest of the quarter. Excessive fouls aside, it was his best stretch of play since before he got injured last month. He wouldn’t add to it in the second half, though, finishing with 13 for the game.
Charlotte held the lead for the rest of half, but a buzzer beater from DeMarr Derozan cut their lead to three.
Batum opened the second half by drawing and converting an And-1, briefly doubling their lead. It would be their only made field of the opening four minutes, however, as they missed their next 12 shots while the Raptors went on a 12-3 run to take a six point lead.
Charlotte eventually found their feet offensively and drew within one, but only momentarily, as Toronto responded with seven straight. The Hornets had a hard time with Jonas Valanciunas, who was stellar on the defensive end, and rebounding the ball.
Toronto lead by eight entering the fourth, but Charlotte’s bench responded to tie the game at 82 with 7:46 remaining. Marco Bellinelli lead the way, scoring 9 points during this stretch in route to his game high of 21. The Hornets couldn’t take the lead, however, and Toronto went back up by five.
Tied at 98 with 2:22 remaining, Derozan knocked down a jumper to break the tie, but Walker followed with a 3-pointer to give Charlotte the lead. A few possessions later, Norman Powell made a free throw to tie it, but Walker then knocked down another 3-pointer to give the Hornets a three point lead with 37.5 seconds remaining.
Derozan knocked down two free throws to cut it to one, putting pressure on the Hornets to come up with an answer knowing Toronto would get the ball back. Walker drove to the hoop looking to score but found himself covered. He kicked the ball to Williams, who knocked down an open 3-pointer, his fourth of the night. It gave Charlotte a four point lead with eight seconds remaining, and sealed the victory.
Tonight was a complete 180 from the night before, as Charlotte came out much more focused on both ends. Toronto threatened to pull away in the third quarter, leading by as much as 11, but Charlotte’s bench pulled them back into the game, and the starters took care of the rest.
Both teams shot around 45 percent from the floor, but Charlotte was deadly from beyond the arc, making 16-32.
While Walker stepped up in the fourth, he struggled for most of the game, shooting 7-25 from the field. Most of his shots weren’t bad looks, but he didn’t get many lucky bounces, and was frustrated at times when no foul was called as he attacked the hoop. In the end though, he stepped up when they needed him the most.
Charlotte remains three games back of Miami, who beat the Knicks tonight. They will get the day off tomorrow, before returning home to play the Denver Nuggets, a team desperate to get into the playoffs in the Western Conference.