The Hornets took on the Raptors in Air Canada Centre in the last game before the All-Star break. Charlotte gets a much-needed week off from basketball to regroup. The games leading up to the break can be distracting as it’s natural for players to look ahead. The Hornets came out flat and looked like their minds were on anything but the game, especially early on. The Hornets turned the ball over nine times in the first half and were down as much as 14 points. If it wasn’t for Kemba Walker’s shooting from deep, this game could have been out of reach by half. The Hornets outscored the Raptors 21-13 in the second quarter and only trailed the home team 44-41 at the break.
The second half started off with a bang and the Hornets began the third quarter on a 8-0 run. On many occasions this year, the Hornets’ offense feeds off the defense. This was no different tonight as Toronto’s turnovers sparked transition offense for the road team. Charlotte also did a great job of limiting the Raptors to one shot. The play of Kemba and Kaminksy, from both inside and out, propelled Charlotte to a 34-14 third quarter. The Hornets were in line for just their third win in 13 games.
The tide turned in the fourth quarter as Lowry and the Raptors did to Charlotte, what the Hornets did to them in the third quarter — just to a greater degree. The home team opened the final period on a 15-0 run as their ball movement was a thing to watch. The Hornets were steps behind in rotations and Toronto were getting any shot they pleased. Kemba finally broke the seal and scored the first basket from the field with 3:04 remaining in the fourth, at this point Charlotte was down 82-79. The Raptors, like Clifford stated after the game, took Kemba out of his game and forced others to make plays. We’ve seen plenty of times this season, if you can slow down Walker, you can stop the Hornets.
There were bright spots in this game including Kidd-Gilchrist’s defense on DeRozan, Kaminsky’s play all over the court, and Walker’s three-point shooting. But, the bad was also on full display tonight as the Hornets couldn’t hold on to a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. This is about a depressing a loss that you can experience as a fan but one that shouldn’t be all that surprising. We’ve relied too heavily on Kemba this year and it shows when teams find ways to defend him, like the Raptors did tonight in the fourth period.
This break comes at the best time and it’ll be interesting to see how the front office approaches this deadline — I know the direction I would take.
Thursday Feb. 23rd – @ Detroit Pistons – 7:30 p – Fox SportSouth