The clock struck midnight in Fort Wayne, I.N.
With dreams of an undefeated (preseason) season on their minds, the Charlotte Hornets finally tripped up in one of their exhibitions this year. In their preseason finale, and in front a sold-out crowd, the Hornets fell to the Indiana Pacers, 98-86.
Charlotte finishes out their preseason slate with a 7-1 mark. A record much better than any of us would have anticipated if we were forced to make predictions about the NBA preseason.
With it being the last preseason game, there was a thought we may get to briefly see the starting lineup for next week's season opener. Head coach Steve Clifford went the opposite way, sitting Nicolaus Batum, Al Jefferson, Marvin Williams, Jeremy Lin, Spencer Hawes and Jeremy Lamb. Clifford said in a pregame media stop that he was looking to play the players that hadn't seen the floor much this preseason.
While the fringe of the roster played large amounts of the night, Kemba Walker started and played a little over 15 minutes after sitting out last night's game vs. Detroit. Kemba hit his first two shots, contributing five early points despite the Pacers holding the lead for much of the quarter. Deep makes from P.J. Hairston and Frank Kamisnky plus an Aaron Harrison buzzer beater would help Charlotte take a late first quarter lead.
Kaminsky would score six consecutive points to start the second quarter and Walker's all-around game would continue to make an impact on the game. Walker's 12 points, three rebounds and three assists would help Charlotte take their undefeated record and a two-point lead into halftime. Kaminsky would also have 12 points at the half to tie Walker for the team-high.
Five different Hornets hit treys in the first half, including Cody Zeller. While they were hot from deep and an intermediate range during the first half, Charlotte would grow cold after halftime. The most noteworthy made shot in the third quarter showcased Kaminsky's effects on a defense. The Tank receives the ball from Hairston as Kaminsky is beyond the 3-point line, above the elbow. He then pulls a shot fake, causing his man to bite. Kaminsky then puts the ball on the floor causing Hairston's man, who's guarding PJ in the corner to help and charge at Frank. Kamisnky notices the rotation and dishes to Hairston in the corner for a wide open look.
At one point in the second quarter, Charlotte was 5-of-12 from behind the arc. Coming into tonight's game, the Hornets were third in 3-point field goal percentage this preseason, making a little over nine treys a game. Charlotte was down by four entering the fourth quarter, largely thanks to a frigid offense. The Hornets had taken that 5-of-12 mark from deep and turned it into a 5-of-23 embarrassment.
Indiana held major advantages over Charlotte in fast break points (29-6) and points in the paint (42-30). The Hornets also went the entire second half without hitting a 3-pointer until Troy Daniels and Kaminsky hit back-to-back treys with under three minutes left in the game.
Kaminsky finished with his preseason high, 19 points, to go along with six rebounds. Despite his first half only duty, Walker was the team's second leading scorer tonight, finishing with 12 points. Zeller (11 pts, 9 rebs) and Tyler Hansbrough (10 pts, 9 rebs) were both close to earning double-doubles tonight.
Aaron Harrison, Damien Wilkins and Elliott Williams all played a decent amount as they battle for the team's final roster spot. No player completely separated themselves tonight but I must note, Harrison was much more involved in making plays, or attempting to, than the other two.
You may be disappointed about the lack of an undefeated preseason, but your life will brighten up - the next time you'll see the Charlotte Hornets, the games will count.