19,632 Charlottean’s made their way to uptown Charlotte tonight to watch the Hornets take on the visiting Los Angeles Lakers. The crowd set a record for most attendees at a Hornets game in Time Warner Arena. The Hornets took advantage of the packed house at they defeated the Lakers 108 – 98, behind a 38 point effort by Kemba Walker.
The night was special as it was Kobe Bryant’s final game in Charlotte, the team that drafted him 13th overall out of Lower Merion High School in 1996. Kobe never wore more than a Hornets draft day hat, as he was later traded to the Lakers for center Vlade Divac. Kobe had impressed Jerry West so much that he convinced the Hornets to trade their draft pick the day before they were set to pick. Since that time, Kobe has become a household name and arguably one the greatest basketball players of all time. Hornets owner and NBA legend Michael Jordan was not in attendance for the game, but left Kobe a congratulatory video message that was displayed during player introductions. Kobe led the Lakers tonight in scoring for the 15th time this season with 20 points.
The teams traded baskets throughout the 1st quarter, with the Hornets taking the lead 31-26 following a Jeremy Lamb lay-up. The teams continued to battle in the 2nd quarter ending in a 58 – 58 tie following free throws by both teams.
As the game continued, the Lakers started struggling to make shots. They managed to stay within 4 points at the end of the 3rd quarter 85 – 81. Kemba Walker wanted to remind everyone that Charlotte was his house as he proceeded to takeover the 4th quarter where he scored 18 of his 38 points.
Keys to Victory
The key to victory tonight outside of Walker’s aggressive play was strong team ball. Nicolas Batum logged his seventh double-double scoring 15 points and 11 assists. Tonight’s performance ranks him first among NBA shooting guards this season. We also saw PJ Hairston playing impressive ball on both ends of the court during his 19 minutes of play, where he contributed 13 points and defended Kobe.
With the win the Hornets have won 2 straight games and improve to (7 – 3) against Western Conference opponents this season. The Hornets return to action on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
-Tony Stanford Jr.