It might have taken a bit of luck, but the Charlotte Hornets have now won three straight games after defeating the Toronto Raptors 115-114 at Scotiabank Arena Sunday evening.
The Raptors trailed by as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter but used an 18-3 run to take the lead with 45 seconds remaining in regulation. After a Hornets stop, Jeremy Lamb sank a 48-foot heave as time expired to give the Hornets the win.
Charlotte, who keeps its playoff hopes alive with the win, was led by a career-high 20 points from second-year wing Dwayne Bacon. Lamb, the hero of the night, finished with 13 points and three of the team's 18 3-point field goals. Toronto maintains its hold on the East's second seed despite the loss, but the No. 1 seed is now all but clinched by Milwaukee, who earned yet another win Sunday.
With this in mind, here are some takeaways from the last-second thriller…
"They say when you play with skill, good luck will happen."
WE. HAVE. NO. WORDS. 🤯- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) March 25, 2019
JEREMY LAMB WITH THE HALF-COURT BUZZER BEATER TO WIN. THE. GAME!!!!! #hornets30 @TISSOT pic.twitter.com/VOUnXMhZCv
The Hornets had an opportunity to win against a team that it trails by over 15 games in the standings after putting forth an impressive effort for the first three and a half quarters. In a sense, the luck that was on their side seemed to be a reward for their efforts throughout the game. It afforded them a chance.
A botched play resulted in a fumbled ball that led to Lamb shooting a contested 48-footer over the outstretched arm of Pascal Siakam.
Just how rare was this?
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Lamb's shot was the second-longest game-winning buzzer-beater over the last 20 seasons (Tyreke Evans, 2010 - 49-feet). It took some luck, but a win is a win, and the Hornets emerged as the victors.
Flipping the Switch
It's something you hear all the time.
Sometimes it's getting up for a big-time opponent, other times it's within a game and most all teams say to flip into another gear for the postseason. Good teams show the ability to flip the switch at any given moment, but great teams shouldn't have to.
Considering the fact that Kyle Lowry returned from injury, it was to be expected that there would be some residual rust with his reincorporation in the lineup and the overall unfamiliarity of guys that just haven't played much together this season.
On this night, the Hornets were just the better team.
After a barrage of Hornets 3-pointers in the third quarter, the Raptors entered the final frame down 12 points. Toronto's 18-3 run was a direct result of flipping the metaphorical switch and upping the intensity as it rallied to take the lead with under a minute to play.
Ultimately, it was too little, too late, as the Hornets were able to take advantage of the fact they were still in the game. If nothing else, tonight's game serves as a reminder to keep the same intensity used to rally in the fourth throughout the night.
Allowing Extra Opportunities
The difference in the intensity between the two teams was evident in what is often dubbed as the "hustle stats".
Charlotte, who is a team that is fighting for its playoff life, played a group of young and hungry players that included the likes of Miles Bridges, Dwayne Bacon, Malik Monk and Devonte' Graham - all of whom are in their first or second season in the league.
The Hornets adopted a scrappy identity Sunday night, and it showed in the box score - the team attempted 16 more shots than the Raptors as a direct result of the 14 offensive rebounds they grabbed on the night. Charlotte converted its offensive boards into 20 second-chance points; Toronto grabbed just three offensive boards.
In addition to allowing more Hornets opportunities, the Raptors limited their own. In the first half alone, Toronto turned the ball over 10 times and Charotte took full advantage, scoring 14 points off of the turnovers.
The Raptors cleaned things up in the second half, committing just three turnovers, but the damage was done. After committing 21 turnovers against OKC Friday and 10 in the first half Sunday, taking care of the ball will be a point of emphasis for this team moving forward.
Back at full strength
Despite the loss, it wasn't all negative for Toronto.
With Kyle Lowry's return to the lineup, the Raptors were once again back at full strength and granted the opportunity to perfect their ideal rotation with a full stable of players. In a season marred by various bumps, bruises and injuries, it's an extremely positive takeaway that there were no reported injuries in this game.
As the season winds down, players will sit out to rest and manage their respective workloads, but it's crucial that this team gets a few games under its belt with each member of its postseason rotation.
Health is one of the major keys to make a deep postseason run, and this Raptors team looks to reach its full strength at the most important time of the year.