Coming off their most notable victory against the Raptors last night, the Hornets were in line for their third straight victory. Charlotte would take on the Nets, who were coming off an impressive outing of their own, but have failed to win back to back games all season.
The Hornets doubled the Nets output in the first quarter, leading 28-14 heading into the second quarter. It was much of the same for the Hornets as their defense was pivotal as it relates to their success. The communication, closeouts, and rotations were noticeable. They held the Nets to only five made field goals on 24% shooting. It looked like the Hornets were going to run away from the Nets but the story changed when the reserves took the court to begin the second quarter.
It’s been a struggle in finding any consistencies with the bench unit this season — part of the reason Clifford has had to fiddle with his rotations. To begin the second quarter, Batum joined Sessions, Belinelli, Kaminsky, and Hibbert. The four-minute stretch to open the second period was when I knew this game would go the distance. The Nets came out shooting the three ball with great success and hit four three pointers before the eight minute mark. The space the Charlotte defenders had to cover on closeouts were too large. It was amusing to see Hibbert closeout on three-point shooters starting with one foot in the paint. The bench unit did their best to hold serve but created no separation.
Charlotte did not come out of halftime with any real urgency on the defensive end. For a team that is making a routine of strong third quarters, tonight was the complete opposite. The Nets were granted open look after open look and buried six three pointers in the quarter. On the opposite end of the court, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm. The Hornets are very much a team who allows their defensive play to dictate how they play offense, and vice versa. Rarely do you see them competing at a high-level on one end and poorly on the other. I thought this was the case tonight in the third as they let their offensive struggles to seep on the other side of the court — not a winning formula.
The Hornets scrapped their way through most of the fourth quarter and had to battle back and forth with Brooklyn. The turning point in the game, came with 3:21 left in the game with Charlotte down 97-98. Batum came off a screen from the weak side elbow to gather Zeller’s dribble hand-off. In one motion, Batum went up for the shot from behind the arc and drew contact from Foye. Batum made the three-point shot and converted the free throw to complete the four-point play. He then went on to nail a three on the next possession off another assist from Zeller. The lead felt comfortable from that point forward. Hornets avoid the letdown and grab the victory in the Spectrum Center — making it 9 of 10 at home.
Mon. Jan. 23rd – vs. Washington Wizards – 7:00 p – Fox SportSouth