Charlotte lost their first home game of the season, 109-93, to James Harden and the Houston Rockets. Even without Chris Paul, Houston’s firepower was too much for the shorthanded Hornets.
To begin the game, Dwight Howard came out with tons of energy in front of the Spectrum Center crowd. He kept the fans in it with offensive rebounds, blocks, and multiple and-ones. He’s been one of the biggest bright spots to begin the season and tonight was no different. He forced Clint Capela into early foul trouble and the Houston center only played 17 minutes.
Although the home team led 30-27 after the first quarter, we started to see where Houston was going to hurt us. Coming into the game, the Hornets were, surprisingly, tops in the league in defending the 3-point line. Charlotte allowed teams to shoot only 27% on above the break threes. Ryan Anderson was the man of the quarter and made three early buckets from behind the arc tallying a quick 9 points.
The turning point in the game came in the second quarter when Kemba was on the sidelines — a common theme this season. The Hornets went from being up 3 to down 10 at half. The frustration was starting to show on Kemba’s face as he wasn’t getting the calls he thought he deserved and the team was starting to fade.
After the break, the Hornets came out with much better intensity with the starters, in hopes of making a comeback. There was a 13-0 run to cut the lead to 2 points at one point, but that’s the closest Charlotte would ever get.
Uncharacteristically, Walker was on the court to begin the 4th quarter. This move was needed but also one of desperation. Outside of Kemba and Lamb, there was hardly any offense generated in that 4th quarter. Anytime the men in teal would make a run to cut it close, the Rockets would nail a three. It was too much in the end and the Rockets pulled away to seal it.
A loss is a loss, but I didn’t think the Hornets played that poorly — all things considered. This team is missing two key components right now in Batum and Cody and it’s glaring. Having said that, the team competed and, at times, felt like they were giving the Rockets some trouble.
There were instances in the game where we saw great team defense for the majority of the shot-clock, only to see Houston drill a three pointer. Some of the made three-pointers were deep and some were even contested — nothing more you could ask out of Charlotte’s defense. There was one defensive possession that did yield a positive result. It happened in the third quarter and the rotations and closeouts on this particular possession were as good as your going to see. It ended with a dunk from Lamb after he blocked it into Dwight’s grasp.
Lamb continues to impress this season and if he hits his three-point shot, like he did tonight, he’s going to be a major player in this team’s success. He already has become very comfortable in the mid-range and driving to the basket. He was 3 of 6 from downtown tonight and it has added another element to his game.
Dwight finished with 19 points and 16 rebounds (7 offensive). He was instrumental in getting Houston into foul trouble — although they did utilize the “Hack-a-Dwight” for the first time this season. This will be something we need to look into as the season progresses.
Outside of Lamb, Walker, and Howard, there wasn’t much output from the other Hornets. The bench was lackluster and it’s hard to compete when the rotational players you rely on don’t produce.
Like mentioned previously, Charlotte without Kemba can be hard to watch. Kemba was guarded by Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker at different points in this game. He had to work hard getting to his spots, not only because he was being guarded by good defenders, but because he feels the need to pull the weight of this team.
The rookies, Bacon and Monk, had down games and only converted 3 of their 15 shots. Kaminsky, who was on a roll for 3 straight games with high quality performances, laid an egg tonight. He shot just 1 of 5 from deep and 3 of 11 overall. When Frank is on, this team is much more successful. When he’s off, the bench and the team suffers.
Numbers to Know
Dwight Howard is the first player since this season to record 15 + rebounds in first five games of the season. Even though Charlotte is just 2-3, Howard has been an animal on the boards on both ends. The last player to do this was Charles Barkley.
The Hornets stay in Charlotte to face off against the red-hot Orlando Magic on Sunday (6 pm). After beating the Spurs and the Cavaliers, the Magic look to be a tougher out than originally imagined. This is the first game of a back-to-back, in which the team has to travel to Memphis for a game on Monday night.