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Game Trend: Aggressive Nicolas Batum leads third quarter run

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Nicolas Batum’s shot-making provided the Charlotte Hornets with the advantage they needed over the Miami Heat in a bad offensive game.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The current 2016-17 season marks the first time that Nicolas Batum has attempted less than 10 percent of his field goal attempts within three feet of the basket. Batum — once upon a time a flying 6-8 athlete who would attempt daring chase-down blocks and poster dunks — has evolved into an artiste that relies on reading the court in the pick-and-roll and off-balance jumpers.

Yet the Frenchman has added some fierceness to his usual suave style of play during the last few games (a sentence that could have applied to former Horncat Boris Diaw as well).

Batum has attempted 14 shots (2.8 per game) inside the restricted area during the last five Charlotte Hornets contests. The wing was barely averaging one such shot (29 in 27 games) up to that point in the season.

You rarely ever see Batum attack the rim in transition like he did against five unsuspecting Orlando Magic defenders on Wednesday night:

His usage has also seen a slight rise as Batum has averaged 20-8-8 during that stretch and has been around a triple double three of the five games.

Last night, in a contest where both teams were having subpar performances on offense, Nicolas Batum stepping up in the third was a crucial factor for Charlotte’s win.

The 9-year pro got the Hornets going to start the half off with a 9-0 run to retain the lead and created 18 points (nine from his own scoring and nine via assists) for the whole period.

You can’t rely on his signature off-balance jumpers for a longer period of time, but there will be games when the ability to hit such shots makes the difference between a win and a loss.

Some other observations:

Giving up 28 looks from three is less than optimal, especially when it comes against a rather unwilling 3-point shooting team in the Miami Heat. It’s an issue that has been previously covered and continues to rear its ugly head.

However, the benefits of packing the paint are also noteworthy as Hassan Whiteside scored only eight points and had the first game of this season where he didn’t grab a single offensive rebound.

Just like the Hornets did in last season’s playoff series, Cody Zeller was coming over almost to the level of the screen in the pick-and-roll and weakside defenders were making Whiteside see a crowd in front of him whenever the Heat did manage to get him the ball.

You much rather see Whiteside taking such tear drops than him getting the opportunities for alley-oops:

As for the sloppy play on offense, it produced this somewhat comical possession where Batum watched the unveiling chaos with a raised hand expecting at least someone to pump the brakes on all of the improvisation and return to the team’s usual sets:

It also begs the question of how often does that happen to the Charlotte Hornets. Practically never, right? For one, I can’t think of even a few of such instances.

That’s something that speaks to the discipline that the Steve Clifford coached Hornets play with.

Lastly, one just has to mention Frank Kaminsky’s 1-for-11 performance.

It has brought Kaminsky down to a horrid 30.7 percent on field goal attempts during his last 16 games and to 37.4 for the whole season. With apologies to the players featured on the list (many of whom created nice careers for themselves), a forward of Kaminsky’s talent shouldn’t be alongside certain other 7-footers who have shot below 38% for a season.

When looking at how he had been doing earlier in December, the question was whether a percentage of 50.0 on shots in between 3 and 10 feet was sustainable.

It has fallen down to 42.9 percent as Frank the Tank has struggled with push shots on drives to the basket and with hooks when trying to exploit smaller players in the post: