Charlotte Hornets Recap: Hornets Defeat Celtics 96-87


After nearly a week of rest and relaxation (and practice), the Charlotte Hornets were back in action Wednesday night, taking on the Boston Celtics at Time Warner Cable Arena. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned to action after missing 12 games, boy was he a sight for sore eyes. He would only play 19 minutes, but he was his typical aggressive self, scoring 9 points and grabbing 6 rebounds.

Would Charlotte endure another late game collapse that has become almost expected? Fortunately not. The Hornets would win their second game in a row 96-87 over the Celtics.

Charlotte got off to a good start thanks to 7 early points from Cody Zeller, who made his 5th start of the season. Kemba Walker also had 6 points in the first quarter, after which the Hornets would hold a 22-16 lead. The addition of Zeller into the starting lineup led to more pick and roll and pick and pop sets, which seemed to help get the offense started. Of course the offense would eventually revert back to it’s natural state of stagnation.

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Zeller in the starting lineup also allows Marvin Williams to come off the bench and play next to a rim protector like Bismack Biyombo. This better hides his defensive deficiencies. So far, this looks like a good change to the starting five. However, Williams received crunch time minutes over Zeller and looked good defensively in those moments. This is something to keep an eye on.

At halftime the lead had evaporated completely, with Boston taking a 45-40 lead into the break. The Hornets repeatedly missed chances at the rim in the first half, this kept them from extending their lead, eventually resulting in the Celtics taking control of the game. Charlotte shot 37.5 percent from the field and 1 of 6 from three-point range, but somehow it felt so much worse.

Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson got going in the third quarter to swing the game back in Charlotte’s favor. Perhaps Lance was ignited by Rajon Rondo inexplicably elbowing him in the face. Whatever works, I suppose. Charlotte would outscore Boston 33-21 in the quarter to take a 73-66 lead into the fourth.

Boston would whittle the Charlotte lead down to 1, but Al Jefferson, Brian Roberts, and Marvin Williams would each hit shots to extend the lead back to 8 with under six minutes to play. That comfortable lead would not last and the Celtics would quickly trim the lead back to 2.

A Kemba Walker and-one, followed by a classic professor Al post move would distance the Hornets lead back out to 7 with under three minutes left in the game. There would be no late fourth quarter collapse in this one, Charlotte would finish off the Celtics for a 96-87 victory.

Al Jefferson led the way with a 23 point 14 rebound effort. After struggling to get deep enough post position in the first half, it was encouraging to see him make adjustments in the second half when the Hornets needed him most.

Lance Stephenson would also have an encouraging performance. The enigmatic shooting guard ended his night with 13 points, 4 assists, 4 boards, and was instrumental in Charlotte regaining control of the game in the third quarter. When he makes an effort to get to the rim rather than relying on jump-shots he can be a powerful scoring force inside.

Kemba Walker struggled to shoot at times, but he still added 18 points and was 7 of 8 from the free throw line.

Like I said earlier, the Cody Zeller-Marvin Williams rotation will be something to keep an eye on. Each player played 24 minutes and contributed in their own way. Zeller scored 9 points, including 3 of 3 from the free throw line, while Williams had 8 points. Most importantly Williams knocked down a huge corner three when Boston was threatening late in the fourth quarter.

For the Celtics Jeff Green and Marcus Thornton led in scoring with 16 points each. Rajon Rondo notched his third triple-double of the season with a 12 points, 10 assists, and 10 rebounds.

The win moves the Hornets record to 6 and 15. There is still much work to be d0ne, but back to back wins is absolutely a sign of progress. The next match-up may not be as winnable as meetings with the Celtics or Knicks.

Friday the Hornets will travel to Memphis to take on the 17 and 4 Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have been tough to beat this season, particularly at home. For now the team will revel in this victory and then set their sights on keeping the winning streak going. In the weak Eastern Conference you are never out of the playoff race. Stay tuned.