Cody Zeller notched 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, and 2 assists to go along with his career high 28 points, but it wasn’t enough as the Charlotte Hornets ultimately succumbed to the Golden State Warriors, 121-110.
In a change of plans, the Hornets tried not digging themselves into a massive hole early in the game. They alternated baskets with the Warriors for almost the entire first quarter. They never led by more than three or trailed by more than five. Kevin Durant made a tough 3-pointer in the final seconds of the frame to put the Warriors up 34-30.
The Hornets activated point-hemorrhaging mode early in the second quarter. The Warriors jumped out to a 14 point lead in large part thanks to several easy layups and dunks. That margin held for a couple minutes before the Hornets made a late run. They pulled within five after a fabulous spinning layup plus the foul. A Darymond Green three point play on the next possession set the halftime score at 68-60.
The third quarter was marked by severe runs by each team. The Hornets went on a 9-2 run to pull within four points, but it was quickly answered by a 10-2 run from the Warriors. Then the Hornets went on an 8-0 run, including three dunks from Cody Zeller. Five straight points from Kemba Walker got the Hornets within three, but they couldn’t secure a defensive rebound off a missed Andre Iguodala 3-pointer, and the Kevin Durant made them pay with a made 3-pointer off the offensive rebound. It was the start of another 9-2 run that restored the Warriors ten point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Warriors started to create some distance early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t the fault of Cody Zeller. He was credited with a missed shot when DeMarcus Cousins stripped him as he rumbled to the basket. It was his first miss in 13 shot attempts. He connected on a floater off the ensuing inbounds play to get his basket anyway. On one possession, Jeremy Lamb lost a shoe. Cousins picked it up and tossed it to the side, which for some reason warranted a technical foul. Kemba Walker converted the technical free throw and then converted a three point play when play resumed. It was part of a 10-0 run that brought the Hornets within seven points 3:24 to play. Unfortunately they couldn’t keep that momentum up and fell, 121-110.
Kemba Walker had a ho-hum 23 points. Jeremy Lamb had 16 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals off the bench.
The Hornets played well for extended stretches of the game. They need to bring that energy and focus to every game, not just the ones against the good teams. If they do that, they should be able to secure a playoff spot.
Up next is a visit from James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.