Charlotte Hornets Recap: Cavs Clip Hornets 97-88


As Robert Plant once wailed, “the song remains the same”. At least the tune was a bit catchier this time. The difficult season rolls on for the Charlotte Hornets. Another day, another defeat.

During a week with trade rumors swirling, the Hornets traveled to LeBron’s house to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite fighting back from a seemingly insurmountable deficit, the Hornets would fall to the Cavs 97-88.

Stop me if you have heard this before, the Hornets got off to a slow start. That is perhaps the understatement of the season. The Cavaliers started the game on a 21-0 run.

By the end of the first quarter Charlotte had put up a measly 17 points, with Cleveland holding a 34-17 lead.  It sounds crazy to say, but it could have been much worse. The Hornets eventually found their way offensively, but it was too little too late. Or so I initially thought.

Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson did most of the first quarter damage for Charlotte. Jefferson scored 4 points, while Walker added 11, including the final 9 points the Hornets would score in the quarter.

The bench unit brought Charlotte back into the game during the second quarter. Marvin Williams scored 9 points, including 2 three-pointers, while Gary Neal and his handy-dandy jumper contributed 7 points.

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After Charlotte had inconceivably cut the lead to 3 points, a pair of bricked foul shouts by Lance Stephenson would lead to a 9-0 Cleveland run that would extend their lead back out to double digits. The Cavaliers would hold a 54-45 lead at the break.

After a disastrous first quarter, and LeBron being in complete control offensively, the Hornets somehow managed to keep the game within reach. They even shot a higher field goal percentage in the first half than Cleveland. The Cavs shot 46.5 percent, with the Hornets edging them slightly at 48.8 percent.

A back and forth third quarter ended with Cleveland outscoring the Hornets by 3 points, which extended their lead to 80-68. The Hornets were not playing poorly, but it became clear that Cleveland’s offense became too much to handle.

The decision to double-team LeBron James in the post led to kick-outs to a wide open Kevin Love. If you give Love enough open three-point shots eventually he is going to start knocking them down. It is a pick your poison type of scenario, and Charlotte frequently chose wrong. Despite all their defensive failings, the Cavaliers are tough to beat when their offense is clicking on all cylinders.

While the game never became a blowout, Charlotte never made it interesting in the fourth quarter. Cleveland would coast to a 97-88 victory.

Kemba Walker was by far the best player for the Hornets tonight. Walker would score 24 points, grab 5 rebounds, and hand out 5 assists. Al Jefferson would put up 14 points, and 8 rebounds in the loss.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist got his first start since coming back from injury, and struggled to find his way offensively. He missed the only four shots he took and would only score a single point. That will happen when you are asked to guard the best basketball player in the world.

Cody Zeller had a rough night, he went 1 for 4 from the field, and exited late in the fourth quarter after Anderson Varejao fell on his head. Hopefully Zeller managed to avoid a concussion, but he appeared to be shaken up.

The much maligned Lance Stephenson was once again on the bench during crunch time. He finished the night with 8 points on 4 of 12 shooting, and 0 of 3 from three-point range. With his name becoming a fixture on the internet rumor mill, you have to wonder how long Stephenson will remain a Charlotte Hornet.

LeBron James was his typical flawless self. James scored 27 points, dished out 13 assists, and added in 7 rebounds. Kevin Love hit 4 three-pointers, and gobbled up a game high 18 rebounds. The third amigo, Kyrie Irving, had a quiet 16 points and 5 assists.

In an interesting coincidence, each team shot 48.5 percent from the field. Cleveland made 5 more foul shots, and 4 more three-pointers. That would prove to be the difference.

Settling for moral victories is silly at this point, but after the 21-0 start, the Hornets can be proud that they fought back to at least make the game competitive. Can they shake it off and regroup Wednesday night when they take on the Phoenix Suns (that’s right, a Led Zeppelin reference and a Taylor Swift reference in the same recap)? It’s getting late early for the Hornets. If the wins don’t come soon, the trades will.