Walker, Lamb carry Hornets past Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The technical foul Kemba Walker received midway through the third quarter didn’t appear the pick-me-up it eventually became.
But Walker thought it provided the spark the Charlotte Hornets required in Monday night’s 104-99 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedExForum.
“I think my tech did it,” Walker said. “I got a little frustrated (after being charged with a foul). But my teammates responded really well. From that point, that’s when things really got going.”
Walker scored 27 points and Jeremy Lamb added 17 to lead the Hornets. Walker scored nine of his game-high point total in the final 6:16 as the Hornets took advantage of Memphis’ cold shooting.
Immediately after Walker’s technical, he said the play of reserves Malik Monk and Cody Zeller ignited a comeback from 13 points down (74-61). Monk drained a 3-pointer and another shot inside the arc on successive possessions, which was followed by a three-point play by Zeller.
“I really liked the fight,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
Clifford also credited the play of his reserves, noting the contributions of Frank Kaminsky, who finished with nine points and six rebounds.
“Cody and Frank played with a lot of purpose,” Clifford said.
The Grizzlies, who shot 34.4 percent, missed 21 of 27 shots in the fourth quarter. They were 11 of 39 (28.2 percent) in the second half.
Memphis point guard Mike Conley (16 points) and center Marc Gasol (10 points) combined to shoot 8 of 33.
Reserve guard Tyreke Evans led the Grizzlies with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“Everything went wrong at the same time,” Memphis coach David Fizdale said. “It just seemed like we couldn’t make a layup when we had a layup. When we had open 3s, we couldn’t make open 3s. And we ended up passing up two or three open shots that we should have taken.”
The Hornets (4-3) posted their first road win in three tries and the Grizzlies (5-2) fell to 4-1 at home.
The Hornets grabbed a 94-93 advantage with 3:41 left as Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored inside to cap a 15-4 run. It was Charlotte’s first lead since late in the first quarter and the Hornets never lost it.
Much of the comeback from being 10 points down with eight minutes left was powered by Walker’s aggressive play and drives. He was 5 of 5 from the free throw line in the closing stretch.
“My mindset was just to be aggressive and make plays,” Walker said. “I just tried to do what I could to help my teammates get the win. If I couldn’t score, I tried to find others who could score. That’s what I was able to do.”
Walker finished with six assists to lead the Hornets
With Memphis going scoreless for more than five minutes down the stretch, the Hornets extended their lead to 97-93. Evans dropped in a 3-pointer to end the scoring drought and trim Charlotte’s lead to 97-96, but the Hornets held on during the final 1:47.
“We just got stops, that was the key thing,” Walker said. “We got lucky a few times, too. Mike (Conley), who is a fantastic 3-point shooter, missed a few open ones and we were able to get the rebound, push the pace and get to the line.”
Conley credited the Hornets for making plays in the closing minutes.
“They hurt us in the fourth quarter,” Conley said. “We didn’t take advantage of opportunities — free throws, layups, anything that we had good looks (at) that teams have to capitalize on.”
The Grizzlies led 57-51 at the half despite shooting 42.9 percent. Conley was 3 of 12 but led Memphis with 13 points. His back-to-back three-point plays in the closing minute gave the Grizzlies their halftime advantage.
Memphis led by as many as 11 (45-34) early in the second quarter, but Walker directed a 13-2 run that tied the score shortly before Conley’s late scoring surge.
Charlotte also struggled shooting in the first half. The Hornets shot 40 percent as Dwight Howard and Monk each went 1 of 8 from the field.
NOTES: Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said the early season chemistry between G Kemba Walker and C Dwight Howard has been encouraging. Walker leads the Hornets in scoring and Howard is averaging a double-double. “They’ve spent a lot of time, obviously, in practice and everything,” Clifford said. “But also communicating and talking to try to figure out the best way that they can function together. It’s off to a good start.” ... Grizzlies C Marc Gasol (left ankle) was ruled questionable after the shootaround, but he was in the starting lineup and did not appear to favor the ankle. ... For the 13th consecutive game, the Grizzlies had 40 or more rebounds against the Hornets. It represents the second longest streak in franchise history against one opponent. Charlotte outrebounded Memphis 56-48.