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Hornets avoid 4th quarter collapse, defeat Nuggets 112-102

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A strong first half from Batum set the tone, as the Hornets ended their six game road trip with a win.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets defeated the Denver Nuggets 112-102 on Saturday night, playing much like they did against the Suns, but this avoiding the fourth quarter collapse that had befallen them Thursday and many nights before. Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 27 points, four assists, and four rebounds, while Denver’s Nikola Jokic led all scorers with 31 points on 13-15 shooting, to go with 14 rebounds.

While Walker ended as the team’s leading scorer, Nicolas Batum’s strong first half gave the Hornets a fairly comfortable lead that only occasionally looked in doubt. Finishing with 21 points, Batum made his first six shots, which included four from the 3-point line. His 3-point shooting helped spark a strong night for the Hornets from behind the line, who finished 16-27, good enough for 59.3 percent. Batum finished 4-6, Walker 5-9, and Marvin Williams knocked down both of his attempts.

Thanks to two 30+ point quarters, the Hornets led by 9 at halftime. That led largely maintained itself through the third and into the fourth, but Denver managed to cut it down to four with 4:33 remaining after Will Barton, capping off a 7-0 run for the Nuggets. They wouldn’t get closer, however, as a 3-point from Walker and a jumper from Williams quickly pushed their lead back to 9, giving them the momentum they needed to finish out the game.

While the Hornets got strong nights from their two biggest players, they received an unexpected lift from Johnny 0’Bryant, signed on a 10-day contract earlier this week. Playing in the absence of Frank Kaminsky, O’Bryant stepped up with 15 points on 7-9 shooting, knocking down 1-2 from the 3-point line as well. He scored both inside and out, and knocked down a couple of jumpers in the fourth that helped the Hornets maintain a double-digit lead. It was a performance worth noting, and came when the Hornets desperately needed someone to at least attempt to fill the void left by Kaminky, who had played well over the past month.

The win means Charlotte ends the six game road trip 3-3. While the loss to Phoenix makes the trip feel a bit disappointing, the Hornets are playing better. With six of their next eight games at home, and many against teams they are competing against in the East, they enter a key stretch that will likely make or break their playoff chances.