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When Will Charlotte Catch A Break?

Jan 26, 2015 -- 10:30pm

News broke Tuesday afternoon that Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker will be having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee that will likely sideline him for a minimum of six-weeks.

When will Charlotte catch a break?

 “Oh it’s a hit,” said coach Steve Clifford when asked how much it would hurt if Walker missed significant time.

Backup point guard Brian Roberts is capable of running the show for the likely 18-game absence, but it won’t be easy to replace 18.8 points in the scoring column that Walker is responsible for.

“He’s been by far our best player.” [In] basketball they’re only five guys playing, and it always start at the top of your roster,” said Clifford.

Al Jefferson is the team’s best player, but Walker is atop Charlotte’s roster with his ability to organize and score.

With a record of 19-26 the Hornets are currently sitting eighth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

This is not the season many expected after winning 43 games earning the seventh seed in the playoffs, the stint was short lived due to a sweep by the hands of LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Everyone on Charlotte’s roster has been hurt from Bismack Biyombo to third-string point guard Jannero Pargo.

The Hornets could possibly be sixth or seventh in the East if they didn’t have to fight the injury bug.

Just when Charlotte started stringing together victories taking care of the winnable games on their schedule going 9-2 over their past 11 games, they lose their starting point guard in the process.

Over that stretch Clifford’s team has followed the blueprint for them to win; averaging 95 points, defend and rebound, then last but not least not turn the ball over.

For the season the Hornets are averaging 95 points per game, they rank ninth in the NBA grabbing 44 rebounds per game and they rank eighth in the NBA in points allowed at 97 points per game.

Through 45 games Jefferson has missed nine games, Lance Stephenson has missed 14 and its likely Walker will miss around 18 games.

In order to be successful in this league you have to stay healthy, Charlotte hasn’t been great when healthy, but just when it looked like things were trending upwards the injury bug strikes again.

If Clifford manages to keep this team afloat during Walker’s absence, that’ll be nothing short of impressive.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Hornets/Heat Preview

Jan 20, 2015 -- 8:03pm

Wednesday night Charlotte, who’s 7-3 over the last 10 games will welcome divisional foe Miami Heat who’s 4-6 over their last 10 to Time Warner Cable Arena.

Eric Spoelstra's ballclub is coming off of a 94-86 lost in Oklahoma City, then has to turn around and fly to Charlotte.

In two games of a four game series, the series is 1-1 with both teams protecting their homecourt.

Despite both teams ranking in the bottom tier of the league in points per game, there is one thing the two teams do and that’s play defense at a high level. The Hornets are ranked ninth, and the Heat are fourth when it comes to points allowed on the defensive end in the NBA.

Charlotte will have to continue to rebound and defend at a high level if they want to have a chance to win. The Hornets have held nine of their last 10 opponents to under 100 points scoring, that’s a statistic that coach Steve Clifford would like to see continue.

Charlotte will be able to throw Gerald Henderson and Lance Stephenson at Dwayne Wade on the defensive end, Wade's averaging 22 points per game on the season. Henderson has continued to thrive in his starting role, and Stephenson is showing that he can be a piece moving forward, rather than being dangled as trade bait.

The Hornets will have Kemba Walker back alongside Al Jefferson, who's playing in his second game since returning from injury.

Charlotte has played well despite the competition not being amongst the league’s best, Miami will be a good test as the Hornets try to get that eighth seed. Charlotte is currently half a game out of eighth, meanwhile the Heat seventh and two games ahead of the Hornets.

What will be the narrative after Wednesday night's game?

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Hornets/Spurs Preview

Jan 13, 2015 -- 6:02pm

Last season Charlotte gave San Antonio everything they could handle, despite losing 104-100 inside of Time Warner Cable Arena.

Wednesday night will be the first meeting of two between the two teams.

The good news is that Lance Stephenson will return to the lineup, but Al Jefferson still remains sidelined.

Both teams are very similar on the defensive end ranking 12th and 13th, respectively, in points allowed per game, but offensively the two don’t compare, the Spurs are averaging 102 points per game that's good enough for 10th in the NBA to the Hornets 96 that ranks 23rd in the league.

Despite San Antonio being the favorite, they’ll be coming off the first night of a back-to-back against Washington, who’s sitting third in the Eastern Conference and 16-4 at home.

It is very possible that Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich could sit Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker, I doubt all three of them play Wednesday night, but don’t quote me on it Popovich is a tough guy to read.

The approach remains the same for coach Steve Clifford’s Hornets, play with the right purpose and effort which is a must, then score in the mid-90s and their defense should be good enough to secure the win.

Win or lose the overreaction of Stephenson’s performance will be the talk throughout Charlotte. If he plays well they’ll say he can’t keep it up, and if they lose they’ll be screaming trade him for ending the five-game winning streak. If we’re being realistic he’ll play anywhere from 18-25 minutes if that. Yes, the Hornets have been playing better in his absence, but if they want to be looked at a serious playoff contending team they’ll have to learn to play better with him in the lineup, rather him being out. It’s easy to point the finger at Stephenson, but Charlotte will need him as they’re currently  on the outside looking in at the top-eight seeds in the Eastern Conference.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Charlotte Keeps On Rolling

Jan 08, 2015 -- 10:57pm

If I told you that Gerald Henderson would score 31 points in a win on the road in Toronto on the second night of a back-to-back would you believe me?

Well believe it, the Hornets defeated the Raptors 103-95 led by the backcourt of Henderson and Kemba Walker Thursday night. The Charlotte guards combined for 60 points in a win against one of the Eastern Conference’s best, who happened to be 14-3 coming into the matchup.

Walker's the second player in the last 10 years with at least 29 points, eight assists seven rebounds three steals and zero turnovers.

This is Henderson’s sixth time in the last seven games reaching double figures scoring.

Charlotte was without the notable Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson, but P.J. Hairston didn’t travel due to an illness with the team and Cody Zeller with a right shoulder injury.

Despite all of those missing bodies, coach Steve Clifford’s team came to play with whoever was healthy enough to take the floor.

This is easily the Hornets most impressive win on the season.

I remember I was ready to tweet that Charlotte should prepare for the NBA Lottery when the news broke that Jefferson would be out for a minimum of four-weeks, but boy was I wrong.

The Hornets are 4-2 without Jefferson, that’s something I didn’t believe could happen, but it’s occurring right before our eyes.

“We got a lot of fight,” said Henderson when asked how this team continues to answer the bell. “Our coaching staff does a great job at getting us prepared for the games, and we just go out and play it out and we did that tonight.”

There was a time when people were clamoring that Clifford should be fired, those naysayers have went into hiding.

Clifford was right when he said that if his team could reach the mid-90s in the scoring column that their defense would be good enough to win games, and if you have yet to notice it has.

Over the span of this four-game winning streak nobody has broke 95, Boston and Toronto reached 95, but when they did the game was already decided.

What makes the winning streak worth noting is that it’s not just Walker who’s been playing well, Henderson and Michael-Kidd Gilchrist have picked up their play as well. Kidd Gilchrist finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds, recording his fourth double-double in five games.

For those who don’t know, Charlotte is improved to 3-0 when Henderson scores 20 points or more.

The Hornets will have a few days to rest as they travel to New York to take on the Knicks Saturday night, on paper that should be a win, but wins aren't handed out in the NBA you have to go earn them.

Just imagine if Charlotte could play this well with an injury free roster, they would easily be within the top-eight seeds of the Eastern Conference. As the Hornets are approaching the midway point of season of 41 games, this is when they need to start playing well in order to make a strong playoff push.

ICYMI: rookie Noah Vonleh received 10 minutes of playing time, recording two points and three rebounds. Though the playing time was brief, it was good for Vonleh get some action in a important game.

Marvin Williams also played well with 13 points and nine rebounds, connecting from three from beyond the arch.

Don't look now but, the Hornets are only two games out of eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twiter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Hornets/Raptors Preview

Jan 08, 2015 -- 12:07pm

Of Charlotte’s three-game winning streak, if they can get win number four in Toronto tonight that'’ll be the most impressive win of the streak.

The Raptors will be without their leading scoring in DeMar DeRozen and the Hornets will again be without Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson.

At this given moment, Charlotte has been trending upwards enjoying their three-game winning streak, meanwhile Toronto has been riding a three-game losing streak.

This matchup will be decided by who can impose their style of play, the Hornets want to make this a defensive low-scoring affair, while the Raptors want to get out and score points, averaging 108 points per game that’s third in the NBA.

With point guard play being at a premium in the NBA, the battle of Kemba Walker and Kyle Lowry will be one to watch. Walker is averaging 18 ppg, recording three-consecutive games of 30 points or more and Lowry is one the best point guards in the league average 21 ppg.

Charlotte’s not among the league’s best road teams at 5-12 away from Time Warner Cable Arena that stat is going to have to give tonight if the Hornets want a win, Toronto is amongst the best in the league at 14-3 at home through 34 games.

We know about the battle of the point guards, but Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist solid performances over this stretch must make the trip to the Air Canada Centre. Walker shouldn’t have to score 30 points or more for his team to be successful, basketball is a team game victories rarely come when its one against four.

Against a high-scoring team, if Charlotte can again make this a low-scoring defensive game they’ll have a chance to win, it doesn’t hurt when you have Walker who can connect on big shots late in the game.

Walker hit his second-career game-winner at this time last year when the Bobcats traveled to Toronto.

Can his trend of 30 points or more lead Charlotte to a fourth-consecutive victory?

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Kemba "Big Shot" Walker Strikes Again

Jan 07, 2015 -- 10:48pm

Between the Hornets and Pelicans, the team that reached 95 points or more first would win, that proved to be right resulting in a victory for the hometown team of 98-94 inside of Time Warner Cable Arena.

Charlotte trailed New Orleans 92-90 with 1:24 remaining in regulation, that’s when Kemba “Big Shot” Walker put on his cape and carried the Hornets to a much needed win, stretching their winning streak to three games.

When the game was on the line Walker hit three big time jump shots including the streetball terminology “And-1” that gave the Hornets the edge they needed to win. He finished with 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting, including four assists and four rebounds.

Walker was asked about his ability to take and make big time shots when the game is on the line, “My whole thing is put the ball in the hole, said Walker. Those last second shots I just want to win.”

When the game is on the line coach Steve Clifford knows exactly who to go to when a basket is needed, Al Jefferson is the team’s best player, but Walker is their closer.

“No doubt at all,” was Clifford’s response when asked was the play designed to be in Walker’s hands with 1.4 seconds and the game on the line.

Charlotte is 11-3 all-time when Walker scores 30 points or more, that’s a stat for fans to keep in mind. He is the ninth player in Charlotte basketball history to score 30 or more points in three-consecutive games.

The Hornets will face Toronto Thursday night, who’s second in the Eastern Conference at 24-10, they’ll need Walker to play well to win, along with Gerald Henderson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

The team didn't play well in the first half, despite managaing to win in a thrilling fashion.

"We just had to try more, said Henderson. I think our defense was a bit sluggish. We started moving the ball and moving our bodies and that movement in the second half was much better for us."

Henderson finished with 16 points, scoring in double figures for the fifth time in the last six games. Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, recording his third double-double in his last four games

It’s great that Walker has scored 30 points over the past three-games, but when his counterparts are carrying their own weight that makes the winning streak that much more impressive.

Many NBA teams don’t celebrate three-game winning streaks, but when you’re in Charlotte wins are hard to come by.

On just how difficult Walker’s last shot was, “He drove the lane, said Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday. I defended as best I could. He made a tough shot.”

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

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