Cavs Halt Hornets’ 5-Game Win Streak
Al Jefferson continued to look strong coming off of knee surgery, but the Charlotte Hornets couldn’t add a sixth game to their win streak.
In just his third game back from knee surgery, Big Al faced a tough test in Cleveland’s 7-foot-1 center Timofey Mozgov, but he had no problem working his magic on the block against the Cavaliers big man. No. 25 came off the bench for 21 minutes and turned in 12 points off 5-of-9 shooting with six rebounds.
The Buzz had won five straight and seven of eight, including one win at home over the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Charlotte couldn’t add a second win against the Eastern Conference’s top seed, falling 114-103.
“We knew they would give us everything they had because they didn’t live up to their standards in their last game here,” said head coach Steve Clifford. “We couldn’t guard them. They were very good.”
The Cavs held a two-point lead after Al checked in at the 4:13 mark. He quickly tipped the scales in Charlotte’s favor. With 1:45 to go, he hit from 12 feet out to give the Hornets a 24-19 lead. However, Kyrie Irving scored the final four points for Cleveland, making it just a one-point advantage at the end of the quarter.
The Cavs rolled on from there, building a six-point lead early in the period, until Big Al teamed up with Jeremy Lin to stop the 14-3 run. Lin kicked it off with a three-pointer. Then the Charlotte guard drove the right side of the lane and dropped it off to The Professor underneath. Al went up through contact from Timofey Mozgov and gave his team back-to-back buckets.
However, the Hornets just couldn’t stop Cleveland’s guard duo of Irving and JR Smith. The twosome went a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the second quarter and combined for 18 points to give the Cavs a 63-52 lead at the break.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker found his groove coming out of the locker room. He hit three straight shots to cut the Cleveland cushion from 13 down to seven. He went 5-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from three for 14 points in the third. Big Al turned in four points and three boards in that period.
But once again, the Cleveland offense did just enough to shield its lead. Irving and LeBron James combined to score 16, and the lead remained 12, 88-76, with just one quarter to play. Through three, the Cavs had shot 51.5 percent from the floor, as James, Smith and Irving had combined for 59 points.
Big Al played just five minutes in the fourth, as Cleveland’s bench took its turn. Channing Frye and Matthew Dellavedova combined to hit five three-pointers. Charlotte rallied, shooting 56.3 percent in the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome Cleveland’s long-range shooting.
It all came down the lopsided second quarter. The Hornets perfectly matched the Cavs in the first, third and fourth—holding a 75-74 lead in those periods. But Cleveland’s 40-point second quarter made the difference.
That competitive play, along with the strong play of Big Al thus far, has the Hornets looking strong. Big Al has totaled 36 points and 18 rebounds in three games since returning from surgery to repair the torn meniscus cartilage in his knee.
“If you’re the Cavaliers, your goal coming into the season was to be the No. 1 seed because they have the best roster,” Clifford said. “For us, we wanted to make the playoffs. Our goals are A, to qualify for the playoffs; and B, be playing at a level to be a factor in the playoffs. There will be 2-3 teams in the conference that take off and play a lot better from here on out. We want to be one of them.”
On Friday, Charlotte will look to rebound from the loss, as the Hornets travel to Indiana to take on the Pacers.
The Hornets came away with a 117-95 victory the last time the team faced the Pacers. During that game, the Hornets outscored the Pacers in all, but one quarter and shot nearly 50 percent from 3-point land. The Hornets also held all Indiana players besides Monta Ellis to less than 50-percent shooting.
The game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. ET start and will air on Fox Sports Southeast, as well as on the radio with WFNZ 610 AM.
- Cavaliers build early lead, bounce back against Hornets (AP, Feb. 24, 2016)
- Game Book: Hornets at Cavaliers (NBA, Feb. 24, 2016)
- Cavaliers 114, Hornets 103 (Reuters, Feb. 24, 2016)
- Hornets get painful lesson in consequences of sloppy passing (Charlotte Observer, Feb. 24, 2016)
- James, Irving lead Cavaliers past Hornets (NBA, Feb. 24, 2016)