The Charlotte Hornets victory over the Brooklyn Nets last night equals five straight wins for the Hornets, and to make it sound even more impressive that gives them one loss in their last eight including a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Charlotte appears to be hitting their stride at the perfect time, and with the addition of Courtney Lee to fill a defensive hole on the wing that's been missing all season it really does feel like the real Hornets have finally revealed themselves.
This Hornets team, when healthy, is very capable of beating up on the weaker teams in the East while challenging some of the stronger ones. During this streak of games they've beaten both the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls in dominating performances. However, it should be noted that they also had a healthy Michael Kidd-Gilchrist for a portion of their streak before he re-injured his shoulder. We have also seen the Hornets plenty of times this season turn around a good stretch of play with some awful basketball in particular when on the road. This isn't to say that the streak is fraudulent, but that there's still a lot to be cautious about.
The next three games are crucial in Charlotte proving to be legitimate or not. As weird as it sounds to say that regular season games are this important, the Hornets have to prove that they're a legitimately good team. With games against Cleveland, the Indiana Pacers, and Atlanta Hawks the Hornets have a chance to prove to everybody that they're the real deal. That the stretch of bad play from late to December to most of January really was just a lot of injuries and that the Hornets actually can compete with the stronger teams out East. If not, well it might not be as glamorous but the last seed in the playoffs is still a playoff spot.
Notes and Observations
The Hornets back court destroyed the Nets backcourt with some incredible speed. Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin had moments where they made Markel Brown and Donald Sloan look like they were in slow motion.
Al Jefferson looks the fastest he's been since the year he was an All-NBA center. The speed that he moves up and down the court, and the moves he's been using in the post, have shown that he's a fully healthy player ready to contribute. He dominated the Nets last night to the tune of 18 points with seven rebounds and he only needed 24 minutes to do it. Jefferson is proving that he can not only take a smaller role but thrive in it.
The defense is the one thing about this season that's been inconsistent about the Hornets. There are times where the look like the top 10 powerhouse they've always been, but there are stretches where even the worst of teams can score on them with ease. Last night, the Nets clawed their way back into the game thanks to one of those lapses.
Oh hey, the bench is good again! It was a major problem for so long that we forget how great Charlotte's bench was at the beginning of the season. They've been thriving with the roster finally healthy, and players have moved back to roles more suitable for them.
The Nets are not fun. A shame too cause their broadcast crew is really good. Anybody with League Pass should give them a listen when they get the chance.