Bench Steps Up to Lead Win over Kings

Charlotte’s Reserves Outscore Kings 60-44 on Way to Home Victory
by Sam Perley

By Matt Rochinski

When Charlotte is playing at its defensive best, the Hornets have been tough to stop this season.

When the Hornets hold their opponent to under 100 points, they’ve been straight up unbeatable in 2018-19.

A Charlotte team still trying to establish that defensive identity in Head Coach James Borrego’s first season took another step towards becoming the team he envisions with a 114-95 win over Sacramento on Thursday at Spectrum Center. It was the second-straight opponent held under the century mark as the Hornets moved to 9-0 this season when they keep their opponent under 100 points.

Kemba Walker scored a team-high 23 points to lead seven different Hornets scoring in double figures in a total team effort that also saw Walker pass the 11,000-point plateau in his career. Willy Hernangomez also recorded his second double-double of the season with 11 points and a career-high-tying 16 rebounds.

Jeremy Lamb (14) and Marvin Williams (10) combined for 24 points in the starting lineup, but it was the play of Charlotte’s bench that was key in this one.

The Hornets starters got off to a slow start, falling behind 15-3 early in the first quarter forcing Borrego to his bench earlier than expected and it paid off. Hernangomez settled things down inside for Charlotte in the first, scoring five points and grabbing five rebounds in seven first-quarter minutes.

“We got off to a poor start and that’s on all five starters, but the bench was tremendous tonight… they really came in and gave us a boost on both ends,” said Williams. “They were great offensively and really, really good defensively. Once the starters were able to come back in we kind of fed off of their momentum and pulled away from [Sacramento].”

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (four) and Miles Bridges (three) combined for seven points in the first as the bench helped the Hornets outscored Sacramento 17-10 the rest of the quarter to pull within 25-20 heading to the second.

“I’m going to speak for the bench - we haven’t been playing as well as we can,” said Bridges. “Today we just really wanted to come out and be physical and be aggressive on offense and defense.”

Charlotte’s aggressiveness continued into the second quarter as they played a nearly-perfect quarter fueled by Kidd-Gilchrist (nine) and Parker’s (eight) combined 17 points early on, while Lamb (nine) and Walker (six) kept the momentum going with 15 of their own later in the frame. By quarter’s end, Charlotte had outscored the Kings, 43-25, including a 17-3 run to close the quarter and give the home team a 63-50 advantage at halftime. The Hornets outshot Sacramento 65.2 percent (15-of-23) to 45.0 percent (9-of-20) from the field while out rebounding the Kings, 12-6. Charlotte also amped things up on the defensive end, forcing six Sacramento turnovers the Hornets turned into eight second-quarter points.

With a 13-point lead at the break and playing on their home court for just the second time this month, the Hornets weren’t about to let this one get away in the second half. Led by the bench for the majority of the second half, the Charlotte didn’t allow Sacramento to get any closer than six points the rest of the way and opened the lead to as large as 21 points late in the fourth quarter on the way to the win.

Bridges and Kidd-Gilchrist (who tied a season high in scoring) both paced the Hornets bench with 15 points apiece. Tony Parker followed with a 14-point performance off the bench, and with Hernangomez’s 11 added to Malik Monk’s five points, Charlotte’s bench would finish the game outscoring the Kings reserves, 60-44.

“Willy [Hernangomez] played great, Miles [Bridges] was very aggressive, MKG [Kidd-Gilchrist] played great defense and he was aggressive too,” said Parker. “We need more of that if we want do something and qualify for the playoffs we’re going to have to have more consistency from those guys. It was great tonight to see them play well and hopefully we can keep it going and build on that.”

The Hornets will stay home for a 5 p.m. tip on Saturday against Phoenix. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive a Glen Rice bobblehead on a night celebrating the career of another member of Charlotte’s 30th Anniversary Team.

“We have to get the ones at home because we play better here,” said Bridges after the Hornets moved to 15-8 at Spectrum Center and 21-23 overall. “We have to steal some on the road, but we’ve been playing well at home.”