Charlotte Rallies, Falls Short in 4th to Blazers

Hornets Erase 15-Point Deficit but Can’t Get Over The Hump
by Matt Rochinski

By Matt Rochinski

Well into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Charlotte Hornets are well aware of the importance of getting off to a fast start on their home court. Fall behind early on your home court and you’ll have to exert constant energy in an attempt to battle back. Unfortunately, that constant push to get back in the game can often cost a team late in the 4th quarter as that energy starts to dwindle and an opponent can take over.

In a Sunday matinee at Spectrum Center, the Hornets fell victim to a case such as this in a 118-108 loss to Portland to start a three-game homestand.

“I don’t have an answer for you,” Hornets Head Coach James Borrego said of the Hornets slow start to the game. “We’ll keep digging looking at it and keep challenging our group. We have to be better in the first quarter on both ends, not just defensively. We just have to keep digging through it, keep looking at it and keep addressing it.”

Jeremy Lamb led the way for Charlotte with 23 points off the bench following a 22-point performance in Brooklyn on Friday, marking the second time this season a player has had consecutive 20+ point games off the bench for Charlotte (Malik Monk, 10/30-11/1).

Kemba Walker followed Lamb with 18 points and a season-high 12 assists for his sixth double-double of the season and 40th of his career. Frank Kaminsky also added 18 off the bench on 5-of-10 shooting from the field after having a 15-point night on Friday in Brooklyn.

“He looks really aggressive right now, asserting himself, we’re looking for him, he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, shooting the ball, driving and creating offense for us as well as battling on the boards,” Borrego said of Kaminsky. “We’re going to need him. We need that spark and he’s giving it to us right now.”

After jumping out to their first, and only lead of the game, 5-4, on a Nic Batum three-pointer at the 9:52 mark of the first, the Hornets would get outscored 22-6 in the next 4:59 as Portland built its largest lead of the game at 15 points (26-11). With a determined effort to try and pick up a win on its home court, Charlotte battled back from a double-digit deficit eight times in the remainder of the contest only to see the Blazers push the lead back to 10+ points.

Even when it looked as if the Hornets had taken control of the momentum multiple times in the third and fourth quarters - nine times making it a one-possession game (three points or less), including two ties - they could never take the lead back from Portland.

Charlotte’s best chance came late in the fourth quarter when Kemba Walker’s first three-pointer of the game rang true to cut Portland’s lead to 97-96 with 6:22 remaining. Unfortunately for the Hornets, it would be their last chance to try and seize control of the contest as the Blazers put together a 15-2 run thanks to seven points from Jusef Nurkic and five more from Rodney Hood and put the game out of reach with a 112-98 advantage with 2:43 remaining. Charlotte would go 1-of-7 from the field in the run and could not keep up with the Blazers and Hood (21 fourth-quarter points) down the stretch. Hood would finish with a game-high 27 points for the Blazers.

“I saw a lot of Rodney Hood. You have to give him credit. We held (CJ) McCollum to six points, (Damian) Lillard to 23 and our guys battled defensively. Hood had 21 points in a quarter. He’s only made one three in the last five games so give him credit,” said Borrego. “He came in, made shots and hit some heaves at the end of some shot clocks. I think our guys kept battling, we had some good looks but they just didn’t fall tonight for whatever reason. We just have to stick with it, keep battling and keep pushing forward.”

The Hornets will next tip off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday against the Miami Heat at Spectrum Center.

“I think at this point in the season there’s a lot of games that we wish we would have had, so we can’t look back at anything,” said Marvin Williams. “You just have to focus on what’s in front of you right now. We don’t’ have many left, but we do have a lot of work to do. I think everyone understands that, so luckily for us we kind of have a chance to rest up and we’ll have a good practice and get ready for a really good Miami team on Wednesday.”

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