Yet another night where the Hornets could not close out an opponent in the fourth-quarter. Charlotte held an 6-point lead with under 8 minutes remaining, but could not close out Courtney Lee and the Knicks. New York prevailed for a 110-107 victory, sending the Hornets to their third straight loss, and their 8th loss in the past 11 games.
Kemba Walker did basically all that he could – scoring 31 points (13-29 FG), grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists. Kemba wasn’t himself from behind the arc tonight (2-11 3FG), but he bailed out Charlotte’s offense on multiple occasions with very little help.
Nic Batum stuffed the stat sheet with 15 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. He played that Batum style of game that gives you reassurance about his value to this team, but Batum also turned the ball over 5 times, and by all accounts, kept the Knicks in the game on multiple occasions with the untimely turnovers. You live and die with Batum’s ambitious basketball IQ and tonight was another very pure example of that.
Statistically, Charlotte didn’t play an awful game. When you look at the box score, compare all the team numbers and then realize Kemba scored 31 while Batum almost had a triple-double – you would think Hornets cruise to a victory – not tonight. Charlotte gifted 13 turnovers to New York (6 from the bench) and allowed 11 offensive rebounds, leading to 21 Knicks points. This kind of stuff gets Charlotte beat on a regular basis. I understand that Clifford would like his team to take care of the basketball and not allow offensive rebounds – every coach would – the reality is that this Hornets team is not as intrinsically built to take care of those types of things (Kaminsky, Belinelli, Hawes) as teams of the past few years. Once again, decision time for the front office ahead of the trade deadline.
The Knicks has 6 players score double figures and were surprisingly versatile offensively. Carmelo and Porzingis both had 18, but when you sprinkle in 16 from Courtney Lee (9 in the 4th) and 15 from Brandon Jennings, well, things get sticky.
Kyle O’Quinn played 16 minutes in the second-half and the entire fourth-quarter, so Clifford was forced to leave Spencer Hawes on the floor for an extended amount of time without Zeller tonight. Predictably, that didn’t go well for Charlotte. Hawes is fine against second units in 5-10 minutes stretches, but having to play him 20+ minutes, which the Hornets have had to do multiple times this season due to injuries – it’s death. You simply cannot keep the ball out of the paint when Hawes is forced to defend pick-and-rolls.
Charlotte returns home tomorrow night against Sacramento in what feels like a super depressing, but extremely important game. Falling two games under .500 with a three game west coast trip coming up would change the conversation severely for the Hornets.
Episode 11 of the Buzz Beat Podcast will be recorded tomorrow morning and posted on Sunday – you can find our podcast, and many more, on the ABPN Podcast Network!