Much like the previous match-up between these two teams that Hornets started the game rather listless and ineffective. While the defense was a notch above Sunday’s, the offense took awhile to get going. The Hornets hit just 31.6% of their shots from the field in the period. Kemba Walker wasn’t without his own struggles, connecting on just one of his seven field goal attempts.
The bench injected some life into the team, as they have been wont to do this season. Frank Kaminsky dropped in a quick eight points including a nice dunk on a perimeter drive. Miles Bridges chipped in a quick seven as well. Then Cody Zeller happened. The former Hoosier threw down two monstrous dunks and hit a couple of tough short range shots in a brief amount of time. By the time the horn sounded to end the quarter, Zeller had scored 12 points. He led the team with 14 total at the half as the Hornets nursed a 55-49 lead.
The second half started much like the first. The Hornets couldn’t distance themselves from an inferior opponent, essentially mirroring the Hawks hurried and reckless style of play. For the first ten minutes of the period, the margin stayed between two and eight points. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist took it upon himself to build a buffer before the third quarter ended. He scored six points and assisted on a Miles Bridges dunk in the final two and a half minutes of the period. After three, the Hornets led 86-75.
The fourth quarter started and the Hawks decided that it was time to stop protecting the basket. Tony Parker had two uncontested layups and Lamb and Batum had uncontested dunks in the first few minutes of the frame. A long Kemba jumper pushed the margin out to 98-81 with 5:52 to go, forcing Lloyd Pierce to call timeout. The Hornets held that buffer for the games final minutes and finished with a 108-94 victory.
The Hawks clearly emphasized taking the 3-point shot away from the Hornets, and they succeeded in that capacity. The Hornets only converted four of their 20 attempts from behind the arc. There was a trade off, however. Hawks defenders frequently became preoccupied with perimeter shooters and left the middle of the court open, resulting in at least nine dunks and several more easy layups for the Hornets.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist again made his presence felt. The Hornets are 2-0 since his return from a sprained ankle and 9-6 in the fifteen games he’s played this season. Kemba had a relatively quiet game, but he made some big shots to put the Hawks away in the fourth quarter.
Next up for the Hornets are the reeling Utah Jazz on Friday night.