Charlotte Hornets Recap: Grizzles Edge Hornets in Double OT


The Charlotte Hornets hit the road Friday night for a meeting against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the entire NBA, and sat second in the Western Conference standings going into the game. They also feature one of the best defenses in the league which would be challenge for the offensively inept Hornets. Memphis would outlast Charlotte 113-107 in a physical double overtime thriller.

The Hornets started slow, as expected. They spotted the Grizzlies 9 points early, before using a 7-0 run of their own to get back into the game. Marc Gasol and Kosta Koufos proved to be difficult match-ups for Al Jefferson, he started the game 0 of 4 from the field, and struggled to get deep post position.

Kemba Walker kept Charlotte in the game early. He scored 13 first quarter points, including 3 three-pointers. The Grizzlies would hold at 26-21 after the first quarter. Without Kemba’s hot shooting it could have been much worse.

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The Hornets cut the Memphis lead to as little as 3 in the second quarter, but Memphis’s hot shooting kept stretching it back out. But, Charlotte would not go away. Al Jefferson would finally find a rhythm, scoring 10 points in the 2nd quarter to trim the Grizzlies lead to 2 at halftime. Memphis was on fire in the first half, making 51.4 percent from the floor, so Charlotte did well to keep it to a one possession game at the half. The 11 turnovers they forced surely helped keep the game close.

The third quarter turned into a back and forth battle with the two teams trading the lead several times. The Hornets won the quarter 27-22 to take a 72-69 lead into the final period. Gary Neal led the way in the third with 6 points, Charlotte badly misses his shooting off the bench when he is injured.

That brings us to the fourth quarter. This season has seen several instances of blown leads and devastating losses. Would this follow that same pattern? Dave Joerger was seemingly upset with his starters, so he left his bench unit in for the first 6 minutes of the fourth quarter. With a little more than five minutes remaining the Charlotte lead sat at 81-79.

Down by three with under a minutes to play, Charlotte had the ball and attempted to work the ball inside to Al Jefferson. Marc Gasol had him guarded perfectly, so Kemba Walker was forced to kick the ball out to Gary Neal with the shot clock winding down. Neal unleashed a wicked shot fake that tricked Tony Allen into fouling him on his three-point attempt. Neal would knock down all three free-throws to tie the game at 90.

On the ensuing possession, Mike Conley would thread a beautiful pass to a cutting Marc Gasol in the lane for a go ahead dunk. A missed three-pointer by Walker would get batted around like a volleyball until Gerald Henderson’s tip-in would send the game to overtime.

Cody Zeller would give Charlotte a one point lead, then defend Marc Gasol perfectly to secure an important stop with just under 24 seconds remaining. Two MKG free-throws would give Charlotte a three-point lead. The next possession saw Memphis showcase some tremendous ball movement that found Vince Carter wide open in the corner where he would drill a game tying three-pointer. A Gerald Henderson fade-away jumper that was too strong would send the game to a second overtime.

Memphis would finally grab control in the second overtime to finish off the Hornets, 113 to 107.

Kemba Walker would lead all scorers with 28 points, hitting 4 threes and handing out 7 assists. Al Jefferson would continue to struggle with Marc Gasol after finding his groove in the second quarter. Jefferson shot 7 of 21 from the floor, finishing with 16 points and 9 boards.

Gary Neal was enormous in the early parts of the game, but would miss key free-throws and commit some unfortunate turnovers late. Neal was still essential to Charlotte staying in the game, his 25 points were huge. In his second game back from injury, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist finished 3 of 5 from the field with 8 points and 5 rebounds in only 19 minutes. Charlotte needs him back playing significant minutes sooner rather than later.

Marvin Williams, Gerald Henderson, and Gary Neal got the majority of the late game minutes over Lane Stephenson, Cody Zeller, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Eventually Zeller was inserted into the game to shore up the interior defense, but Steve Clifford’s rotation choices are something to keep an eye on.

Zach Randolph led the Grizzlies in scoring with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson struggled to guard him, especially late in the game. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley each had 19 points, while Courtney Lee had 13. Vince Carter only played 7 minutes, but he hit a pair of three-pointers including the important corner three that sent the game to double overtime.

The Hornets showed great effort, but the late game execution was subpar. You cannot keep giving an elite team extra chances to get back into the game, but that’s exactly what the Charlotte did. Add this to list of devastating losses where the Hornets had several chances to win the game.

Things will get a bit easier tomorrow night. Charlotte will return home briefly to take on the Brooklyn Nets, a team that also happens to be their own special brand of mediocre (or let’s face it, just plain bad). On Monday, the Hornets will travel to Cleveland to take on LeBron James and the new look Cavaliers. After that the schedule gets easier. Hold tight Hornets fans. Relief is coming.