Can a win ever feel like a loss? If you believe so, then today's game might have just qualified.
In the first half, the Hornets dismantled the Kings to lead by a whopping 25 at the break. Ryan Anderson led the way with 19 points, but everyone was contributing: Greivis Vasquez with 8 assists, Eric Gordon with 12 points and Anthony Davis with an overall line of 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks and 1 steal.
However, it wasn't entirely all smooth sailing. With 1:02 remaining in the second quarter, Davis twisted his left ankle on the baseline while Eric Gordon was flying towards the rim for a dunk. He played for another 15 seconds until a timeout was called, but it was obvious he was in a decent amount of pain. Suddenly, all the euphoria that had been built by the dominant play, almost became an afterthought.
Predictably, the second half started with Anderson in place of Davis as the Hornets announced he wouldn't return to the game. Seemingly though, the Hornets didn't skip a beat as midway through the third, the Hornets maintained a healthy 76-49 advantage. Even Al-Farouq Aminu delighted fans by draining a shot from beyond the arc. Happy happy joy joy feelings, right?
Nope, as the motto of everything has a price came a knocking. That not-meant-to-be three pointer appeared to be responsible for opening some sort of Pandora's box because, in the blink of an eye, the Hornet's momentum took a seismic shift in favor of the opponent. In the final 6:12 of the quarter, Sacramento amassed 27 points on 10 of 10 from the field!
The Hornets held an 11 point lead entering the fourth quarter, but no one felt it was safe enough to take their next breath. The Kings good shooting continued as they hit their first 4 shots out of 6 attempts. Thankfully, Mr. Anderson was still in the matrix as he hit two consecutive three's and allowed the Hornets to finally coast to a double digit victory. Which, by the way, is the first time this season we've walked away with a win when giving up 100 or more points.
1. Ryan Anderson. 27 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Although it took him 22 shots, he did connect on 7 of 14 from deep. Moreover, his solid play throughout the game helped overcome Davis' early departure.
2. Monty William's substitutions. One game after many fans were left questioning Monty's rotations, he was on point tonight. Specifically, he understood the sense of urgency created by the King's enormous finish to the third quarter. He substituted Roger Mason for Brian Roberts, after just a 2:30 minute stint on the floor, and Mason delivered a crucial jumper as time expired. That shot ensured the lead would remain double digits entering the final frame. In addition, Monty substituted Vasquez at the start of the fourth and Aminu shortly thereafter. Without these moves, the King's titanic comeback would have probably continued.
1. Davis' left ankle. As we've come to hate Gordon's right knee, Davis has a body part that is beginning to alarm fans all too often. Tonight, he tweaked his troublesome left ankle again. Yep, this is the same one that had a stress reaction which led to 11 missed games earlier in the season. The same one that almost forced him to miss the 2012 Olympics. Although several fans tweeted that he came back to the bench late in the game without anything resembling a walking boot and Unibrow, himself, ensured he'll be good to go on Wednesday, the concern seems very real.
2. 3rd quarter collapse. The Kings, who after looking completely disinterested the entire first half, outscored the Hornets 37-23 on a blistering 75% from the field. As mentioned earlier, they tallied 27 points in just over 6 minutes of playing time. Somehow, someway, the team is going to have to be able to summon a more consistent effort to avoid these future pitfalls.
The Hornets travel to San Antonio to play Wednesday. Hopefully, Anthony Davis is correct and he'll avoid missing any further time, let alone games. If not, the team will heavily rely on Jason Smith, who also appeared to tweak his right shoulder again. Geaux Hornets!