By Art Garcia, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — Squandering late leads is a trend that has bothered Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford.
Despite leading the Southeast Division, the Hornets have given away several games late this season. For Clifford, it has boiled down to fight and toughness.
The Hornets showed plenty of both Monday night as Kemba Walker scored 19 points and Charlotte finished strong to beat the Dallas Mavericks 109-101 at American Airlines Center.
“This was our sixth win on the road this year,” Jeremy Lamb said. “That’s huge for us. When you’re on the road, there is a lot going against you. It’s a tough environment, but we stuck together today. We got down 10, but we kept fighting, and we were able to pull out a win.”
The Hornets (12-9) actually rallied from 11 points down in the third quarter and held off a late Mavericks rally to sweep the season series. Both Charlotte wins have come in the last five days.
The Hornets finished their 97-87 victory at home on Dec. 1 with a 9-2 run. Charlotte, 6-3 on the road, claimed the rematch by outscoring Dallas 34-23 in the final period.
“We’re down 10 in the third with no momentum, and guys hung in there and we made a lot of plays there in the fourth quarter,” Clifford said.
Walker knocked down 8 of 15 from the floor in 35 minutes. Nicolas Batum (14 points and 15 rebounds) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (11 points and 12 rebounds) both had double-doubles.
Lamb scored 14 points off the bench, including a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left to thwart a final push by the Mavs. The Hornets hit just 3 of 18 from deep, missing their first 14.
Marco Belinelli added 16 points off the bench for the visitors. Cody Zeller had 12 points and a key block of Deron Williams’ driving runner with Charlotte clinging to a three-point lead in the final minute.
The game featured 18 lead changes and 17 ties before the Hornets took the lead for good on Walker’s basket with eight minutes to play. Charlotte won the rebound battle 55-35.
Harrison Barnes led the Mavs with 29 points and grabbed seven boards. Williams had 15 points and 13 assists for his first double-double this season. Wesley Matthews scored 16, and reserves Dwight Powell (15 points) and Jonathan Gibson (13 points) scored in double figures.
Dallas shot 41.6 percent. Charlotte connected on 50.6 percent.
“The shots were not dropping,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “They made some tough shots, and then they broke us down a few times. They outlasted us; their experience and execution down the stretch was the difference.
“I’m disappointed in the result. We did a lot of good things. The thing that’s most disappointing is the rebounding numbers.”
Already without Dirk Nowitzki, J.J. Barea and Seth Curry, the Dallas rotation suffered another blow in the first half when Andrew Bogut hurt his right knee. The starting center was set to have an MRI exam Tuesday.
“We don’t think it’s terribly serious,” Carlisle said. “From what I understand, it was hyperextended. The X-ray was clean, from the information that I got. We’ll probably have more information in a day or so. At this point, it appears we dodged a bullet.”
The Hornets missed all nine of their 3-point tries in the first half, but went into the locker room down just 50-48. Charlotte did make 19 of 31 shots (61.3 percent) inside the arc and all 10 free throws.
The Hornets were 26-28 at the line for the game.
Barnes had 13 points at the break for Dallas, with Williams scoring seven and handing out six assists. Williams’ layup to beat the halftime buzzer was the difference.