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Game Trend: Kemba-less Hornets can’t keep up for 48 minutes

The Charlotte Hornets made a game out of their contest at Boston with good defense, yet failed to execute down the stretch.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

It came as no surprise that the Charlotte Hornets struggled on offense in a game where they were missing Kemba Walker. Walker is 13th in the league in usage rate and has displayed efficient play in his huge role by posting a true shooting percentage of 57.9, good for the eight place among the 20 most used NBA players.

The Hornets team had to fill those possessions against Boston with a roster that doesn’t have many other options. Nicolas Batum can facilitate for teammates but doesn’t get much more than semi-contested jumpers for himself. Starters Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller rely on others for good looks. Offensive-minded players like Marco Belinelli and Jeremy Lamb can always create a mid-range shot for themselves, yet aren’t relied upon for finding teammates.

There isn’t a whole lot of puncturing the defense and forcing rotations between those players, something that can be expected from the nifty Walker in the pick-and-roll. An offensive rating of 86.8 for the game probably underestimates the decent showing the Hornets put up, yet proves the point nevertheless.

Due to those offensive woes, the Hornets had to defend well in order to hang around and make a low-scoring, close game out of this contest.

When the Hornets first reached their biggest lead of 12 with 8:25 left in the third quarter, they had registered 10 steals on Boston’s 11 turnovers. That huge percentage of live ball turnovers is a testament to Charlotte’s active defense and how they were the ones to cause them rather than the Celtics themselves committing errors.

Two dives to the floor by Marvin Williams early in the third quarter to ensure possession of the ball for the Hornets after a poke away are the signature plays of this stat.

However, it wouldn’t last the whole game as the Hornets fell apart mid-way through the fourth quarter and basically gave up 10 points in one minute.

An unnecessary flagrant foul by Marco Belinelli (reminiscent of the and-one Jason Terry had against him in the season opener) helped Boston to a 4-point possession. Isaiah Thomas made a 3-pointer. Avery Bradley hit another one. Game over.

The three by Bradley came in well known circumstances, to boot. The ball handler was allowed to get to the middle (Thomas wasn’t ICE’d in the pick-and-roll) and a Hornets perimeter player helped on penetration from one pass away:

That’s a trend we’ve touched on after the Detroit Pistons set their season-high for 3-pointers made against Charlotte.

Overall, it was a valiant effort where some extra luck or better play on a couple of possessions could have helped Charlotte to a surprise win on the road.

Some other observations:

17 offensive rebounds — the fourth most Charlotte has snagged under head coach Steve Clifford and his preference to abandon the offensive glass — helped the Hornets to 20 more field goal attempts than the Boston Celtics attempted, which hypothetically was the advantage the team needed without Walker.

(Meanwhile it’s another season of defensive rebounding struggles for an Al Horford team with the Celtics 25th in DREB%.)

Perhaps, one might say that Charlotte got all the looks it needed for a win, yet some randomly horrible misses prevented that from happening. All of Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller managed to botch point blank layups:

Kaminsky and Spencer Hawes — supposed 3-point specialists who do fire up the occasional and inexplicable bad brick — also chimed in with some airballs from three:

But, hey, at least MKG hit a 3-pointer!

By my calculations he had played 763 minutes since making his last three, which came against Chicago in February of 2016.

In related news, only Lance Stephenson and Shaun Livingston have clocked more than 100 minutes as perimeter players in the NBA in 2016-17 and not hit more than one 3-pointer.