The Hornets snapped a seven game losing streak tonight, defeating the visiting Atlanta Hawks 107-84. For those who closely follow these teams, seeing the Hornets win so convincingly was great considering the Hawks have owned the series winning 3 of the last 4 contests.
Kemba Walker shot 9 of 13 from the field to lead the team with 23 points, but much of the talk around the locker room was about Nicolas Batum (who returned to action after suffering a toe injury). Batum used his presence in the post to create plays for his teammates; finishing the game with 6 points and 10 assists. A major recipient of those assists was Cody Zeller who scored 19 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds for his second double-double of the season.
The Hornets got into a rhythm early and never trailed in the contest, they ended the 1st Quarter leading 20-19. In a postgame interview, Coach Clifford listed their start as key to tonight’s victory:
“We started the game better. The last four games we struggled in the first quarter but the starters set the tone with a good balance of offensive and defensive play. That was probably as complete of a game as we’ve played all year.”
The Hornets played very aggressive in the 2nd Quarter leading by as many as 13 points. They went into halftime with a 45-36 lead; this was the second time this season they were able to hold an opponent to just 36 (previously done against Miami on December 9th). Things continued in the Hornets favor during the 3rd quarter where they lead by as many as 22 points, finishing with an 80-58 lead. In the 4th Quarter, Jeremy Lin scored 9 of his 17 points and the team lead by as many as 35 points.
Many of the players mentioned that Team Owner and NBA Legend Michael Jordan spoke to the team after Tuesday’s practice. He reassured them that he had confidence in their ability to win if they played for each other as they did earlier in the season. Based on tonight’s results he was right. The Hornets grabbed 54 rebounds (17 more than the Hawks), forced 16 turnovers, and shot 84.6% from the charity stripe.
Despite the loss every active Hawks player scored a basket and they were led by Paul Millsap’s 20 points. The Hornets travel to New Orleans for a game on Friday, and then back Home for 2 straight games.
-Tony Stanford Jr.