Walker, fourth-quarter surge lift Hornets past Nuggets
Walker, fourth-quarter surge lift Hornets past Nuggets
- Walker, fourth-quarter surge lift Hornets past Nuggets
Published On: Fri, Mar 31
Mar 19, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Denver Nuggets guard D.J. Augustin (12) drives the ball around Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (25) in the second half at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Nuggets defeated the Hornets 101-93. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker refused to come out of the game and, in essence, he refused to lose.
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Walker played the entire second half and led a furious fourth-quarter comeback as the Charlotte Hornets rallied to beat the Denver Nuggets 122-114 on Friday night at the Spectrum Center.
Walker finished with 31 points, including eight straight Charlotte points during a 15-0 run that started late in the third quarter and carried into the fourth. The Hornets had trailed by 12 late in the third quarter.
Coach Steve Clifford said that the Hornets are a better team when their All-Star guard and captain is on the floor. So with the Hornets in desperation mode as they try to pull out an Eastern Conference playoff berth, Clifford had no problem keeping Walker on the court.
"That's how we've done it in the past," Clifford said. "Our best stretches of play were when he played big minutes. He's our best player. He walked off at the end of the third quarter and said, 'I'm not coming out,' so that's fine with me."
The Hornets (35-41) have won two straight and six of their last eight. They are now just two games out of the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race with six games remaining.
Walker, who finished 9 of 23 from the field and hit four 3-pointers, wound up playing 41 minutes.
"We had to find a way," Walker said. "Actually, it was a struggle for me personally in the first half. My body just wasn't moving like I wanted it to, but I just had to fight through it. I know how important this win was for me and my teammates. We fought hard, man. The second half we fought harder and came out with a huge win."
Frank Kaminsky added 22 points, with five 3-pointers on a night when the Hornets were 17 of 36 from 3-point range. They hit seven 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets also got 13 points from both Jeremy Lamb and Nicolas Batum, and 11 from Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marco Belinelli.
Charlotte's bench outscored Denver's bench 50-19, and the Hornets also held a huge advantage at the free-throw line. The Hornets hit 25 of 30 from the line, while the Nuggets were 8 of 11.
Charlotte outscored the Nuggets 36-20 in the fourth quarter, after trailing 94-86 after three quarters. Walker ended the third quarter with a 3-pointer, then he scored the Hornets' first five points of the fourth. The 15-0 run gave the Hornets a 98-94 lead, and they never trailed the rest of the way.
"Our fourth quarter offense has been there all year," Kaminsky said. "We've been doing pretty well scoring in the fourth quarter. We've just been giving up too many points. The last couple games we've gotten stops when we've needed to and just made the plays at the end of the game. That's what you have to do to win."
The Nuggets (35-40) have lost three straight and five of their last seven. They lost another half-game to Portland in the race for the final Western Conference playoff spot, and now trail the Trail Blazers by two full games.
"Obviously, their bench outscored ours 50-19," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Our bench in that fourth quarter allowed them to start on a 12-0 run, which did not bode well for the rest of the quarter. Obviously, they outscored us 36-20. I thought for three quarters we were the better team. The fourth quarter, they turned it up and we just didn't respond."
Nikola Jokic had his sixth triple-double in the last two months with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Gary Harris scored 20 points, Danilo Gallinari had 19, Kenneth Faried had 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Jameer Nelson had 12 points and nine assists.
Nelson suffered a calf injury with 3:27 left in the third quarter. He did not return.
NOTES: The Hornets won the only previous game this season, 112-102 in Denver on March 4. ... The Nuggets were without G Will Barton (foot). ... The Hornets were without F Johnny O'Bryant (ankle) and G Ramon Sessions (knee). ... It was a rare game involving brothers, Hornets C Miles Plumlee and Nuggets C Mason Plumlee. ... Hornets G Kemba Walker scored 31 points to give him 8,030 points in his career, making him only the second player in franchise history to surpass 8,000. The all-time leader is Dell Curry with 9,839. ... Nuggets C Roy Hibbert played 42 games for the Hornets earlier this season, before being traded twice. ... The Nuggets were playing the second contest of a five-game road trip. They will play at Miami on Sunday. ... The Hornets will play at Oklahoma City on Sunday.
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