Written by David W. Walters
To say the atmosphere felt different would be an extreme understatement; the fans were all over downtown Charlotte, decked out in fresh, new Hornets gear as well as the old and faded, vintage threads. The lines to get in the door were as long as they’ve ever been and the entire staff was dressed in tuxedos. The fans inside were decked out in tuxedo t-shirts, a nod to the Hornets original opening night at the Charlotte Coliseum in 1988. The atmosphere was electric. It felt like history was about to happen and it felt different than anything Charlotte basketball had seen in a very long time. To put it simply, it just felt right.
The Charlotte Hornets wasted absolutely no time endearing themselves to a raucous hometown crowd on Wednesday night, as they completed the biggest comeback in team history to come away with a 108-106 victory at the Hive. The Hornets trailed by as much as 24 points in the third quarter, drawing boos from the sold out crowd before Lance Stephenson threw down a thunderous dunk that made the Hive explode and helped spark the lethargic Hornets offense.
Yesterday, Kemba Walker signed a four-year, $48 million extension. Today, he showed fans why he was worthy of such a deal. Walker started off slow, but showed exactly why the Hornets have put their faith in him as the teams point guard of the future. He shot 9-26 from the field, but came up big when the team needed him most, hitting a three pointer in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime, and then knocking down a clutch fadeaway to give Charlotte the win. Walker finished with a game high 26 points to go with six rebounds and five assists.
The Bucks were quite effective using a double team on Al Jefferson most of the game, but the Hornets big man finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds to go with four (yes, four!) blocks as he fought through the defense in the second half.
Marvin Williams was solid for Charlotte the entire game, shooting 8-12 for 19 points to go with four rebounds and three assists. He also went 3-6 from three-point range, including a clutch three pointer to help the Hornets keep the game close.
Stephenson struggled with his shot early but finished with seven points, a team-high 13 rebounds and eight assists as he showed off the all around game that brought him to Charlotte. He struggled with leg cramps as the game wore on but it was clear that nothing was going to stop him from finishing the game, which helped him garner even more respect from the crowd.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a very solid game for the Hornets with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three blocks. MKG had only gotten better as the preseason wore on, and now it seems that he may finally be making a leap in taking his game to another level. Granted, its only one regular season game, but it’s encouraging nonetheless.
Gerald Henderson saw his first game action, coming off a hamstring injury and showed understandable signs of rust. Cody Zeller led the reserves for the Hornets with 11 points and Gary Neal struggled, shooting 2-11 from the field for six points, although at one point he hit a runner to help tie the game.
The Bucks got strong effort out of starting point guard Brandon Knight who led the Bucks with 22 points and 13 assists and forward Khris Middleton contributed 17 points and six rebounds. Spark plug O.J. Mayo came off the bench to pour in 17 points and rookie Jabari Parker had eight points and four rebounds.
The Hornets are back in action on Saturday against the Memphis Grizzlies. The team will again raise the #13 jersey of former Hornet swingman Bobby Phills to the rafters in a retirement ceremony.
In closing, I guess you could say that this event was a raging success, beyond our wildest dreams even. The night couldn’t have had any more drama; first the Hive was electric, then the energy got sucked out, then the team goes on the most amazing run in franchise history, and then the crowd erupts in ecstatic celebration that has been 12 years coming…. congratulations everybody, the Charlotte Hornets are home.
you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.
Photo credit (NBAE/Getty Images)