Charlotte Hornets Early Season Report
By Kallan Louis
November 26, 2016
New York Knick all-star, Carmelo Anthony, stung the Hornets with a game-winning jumper Friday night in the 113-111 overtime game but, the Hornets earned redemption and snapped a four game losing streak, beating the Knicks on the second night of a back-to-back, 107-102, on Saturday night. A hard fought competitive game at the Spectrum Center had playoff level intensity, and these kinds of efforts are needed if the Hornets are going to make the next step in the Eastern Conference, behind Cleveland.
The arena was packed with fans representing both teams. A few celebrities were in the building including Charlotte native, and former pro wrestler, Ric Flair and Atlanta rapper Gucci Mane, who was seen hanging out with Hugo the Hornet courtside.
Kemba Walker put in the usual strong effort with 28 points. Jeremy Lamb, starting for Nic Batum, was the player of the game finishing with 18 points and 17 rebounds including 9 points and 10 rebounds in the first quarter.
The Hornets started on a 15-2 run and scored 38 points in the first quarter but like the night before, the Knicks battled back and tied it late in the third quarter. The game was tight throughout the fourth quarter but Frank Kaminsky drained two three balls late and the Hornets made enough free throws to seal the victory.
Buzz City turned some heads last season, finishing with 48 wins – good for fifth best in franchise history and best since the 1999-00 season. But it ended bitterly in the playoffs. After leading 3-2 in the first round against the Miami HEAT, they lost the final two games and were eliminated. The Hornets have not won a playoff series since 2002. The challenge for head coach Steve Clifford and his squad is to improve on last season’s success and find ways to consistently beat playoff caliber teams.
New and re-signed acquisitions bolster a roster featuring veteran point guard, Kemba Walker, and fourth year Hornet, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who missed the majority of last season due to injuries. Nicolas Batum (did not play last night), Marvin Williams (also did not play), and Cody Zeller provide steady experience while role players like Roy Hibbert, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, and Spencer Hawes round up a lineup that could still use another shooter in addition to Marco Belinelli.
The Hornets got off to a fast start this season with an 8-2 record, the best in franchise history, and at one point, they matched the Cleveland Cavaliers for the best record in the NBA. They are currently one of the best passing teams in the league averaging more than 24 assists per game while continuing to be a top ranked defense. Offensively, Kemba Walker leads the way, averaging 24.5 points per game, up almost four points from last season.
But since snapping Atlanta’s six-game winning streak in mid November, they have lost four straight until last night.
The Hornets have been competitive in all the games so far. Of the seven losses this season, six were against teams that are currently .500 or better, including Cleveland, San Antonio, Toronto, Memphis, Boston and New York. The average margin of victory in those games was less than six points with only one double figure loss. Two of those losses came in overtime.
But there are no moral victories in professional sports. Charlotte has only one impressive win against a quality team, the four point victory against the previously streaking Hawks. Six of the wins were against teams below .500 and four of those wins were against teams with twice as many losses than wins.
The Hornets are expected to be a playoff team this year and could be in contention for home court. The Hive was electric at times last night which could be advantageous since the Hornets were 30 -11 at home last year. But if they hope to be a threat to east’s elite, they must prove they can beat top-tier teams during the season, at home and on the road, not just come close.
Check out the 2016-17 Charlotte Hornets schedule.
More photos by Alex Cason: