It's been said a lot already today, and it'll probably talked about for the rest of the season, but Kemba Walker's career, franchise, and score more points than I could ever dream of high of 52 points was special. And yes, he needed double overtime to get it, but that shouldn't take away from what was arguably the best individual performance in franchise history.
More than anything, it was fun to see Walker break the franchise record, because it was the realization of the type of game Walker always seemed capable of. At times he can be in a such a zone shooting the ball that it doesn't feel like he'll miss again, only to go cold for large stretches of the game. Such is the case with a player who has always been a bit of a streaky shooter, but that wasn't the case Monday. While his fourth quarter was quiet compared to other parts of the game, his performance in overtime was Kemba Hero Ball dialed up to a 10, and it made the difference.
Was it perfect? Of course not, but considering his post game comments, he appeared fully aware of the mistakes he made that brought the Utah Jazz back in the game. However, he overcame each mistake with one big play after another. Imagine scoring 52 points and losing? It could have happened, but Walker and the Hornets made just enough plays (and stops) to come away with the win.
Will it matter long-term? That's hard to say. The next three games aren't easy, first with road games against the Oklahoma City Thunder (yikes), and the much improved, playoff-minded Orlando Magic, followed by a home game against the Knicks, who have been better of late. So it's hard to say whether this win will make much of a difference. It certainly helped a little, and if you're an optimist, you'll look at the Hornets as winners of two of the last three games, and ignore the seven before that.
But regardless of the outcome this game will have on the season, one other takeaway was the performance by Frank Kaminsky. Finishing with 17 points on 7-12 shooting, to go with seven rebounds, he showed off his ability to shoot and make from various spots on the floor, but what was most impressive was his improved fundamentals at the rim.
Watch any Hornets game, and you'll likely see one or two plays where Kaminsky makes a great move to the basket, only to finish poorly at the rim by settling a half-step too early rather than taking it all the way to the rim. And it's not as if he can't finish when he takes it all the way -- he's shooting 56.3 percent from the field at the rim this season -- but often he settles for a running layup three to five feet from the basket, which nets mostly negative results. Between three and ten feet this season, Kaminsky is shooting just 32.6 percent. This obviously doesn't account for only layups, but those 10 foot jumpers aren't exactly falling either (and probably shouldn't be attempted either).
But Kaminsky didn't settle for the mid-range shots against the Jazz, attempting just one. In fact, aside from that attempt, only one other shot came from outside the paint, a made 3-pointer. The rest came from the paint, where he went 6-10.
In a small way, Kaminsky's night echoed Walker's. As Walker always seemed capable of a 50 point game, Kaminsky has often looked capable of scoring 17 points efficiently. And this performance isn't an outlier either, Kaminsky is averaging 10.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in his last 10 games, which are both over his season highs. He's looking more comfortable than he did earlier this season, and the numbers are starting to reflect it.