The Charlotte Hornets are on fire.
Since January 31, the Hornets are now 12-3 after their 108-103 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves and moved to six games over .500. Kemba Walker gave the Hornets 34 points, seven rebounds, and six assists to lift his team over Minnesota. Without Walker, the team may not have found their momentum, especially late as the Timberwolves made their run.
From the beginning, it seemed as if the Hornets were going to struggle to get their shots to fall. The Hornets began the game shooting just 1-for-6 from the field but wound up finishing the first quarter with a 14-4 run to wind up with the 23-18 lead. Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams each had five points in the first, but Walker led the way with seven of his own.
However, in the second the Timberwolves would make their run. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns had 11 points and four rebounds in the quarter alone, but Al Jefferson gave it right back with nine of his own on 4-for-7 shooting. Once Jefferson went to the bench, the Timberwolves immediately began an 11-0 run that was spearheaded by Zach LaVine and eventually led the Timberwolves to a halftime lead.
Walker owned the show in the third with his 21-point outburst on 7-for-9 shooting in the third quarter alone. Nothing the Timberwolves did was able to slow him. They couldn't give him space to shoot because he would simply rise up for a 3-pointer. Nor could they play up on him because of his speed. It was the perfect storm for Walker. If it wasn't for Andrew Wiggins' 10 points, Walker could have easily delivered the knockout blow by the time the fourth quarter came around. Instead, the Hornets' lead was just seven.
Entering the fourth, the Hornets' winning seemed to have a feeling of inevitability despite the fact that their opponent was hanging around. The Timberwolves shoot the fewest 3-pointers in the NBA, which meant that they were attempting to pace themselves with the Hornets using a smorgasbord of midrange jump shots. Not only were the Hornets 10-for-28 from deep to Minnesota's 2-for-8 at that point, but having their opponent work twice as hard for ess-valuable shots helped.
Eventually, the Hornets pushed the lead out to 15 with 4:07 remaining, yet somehow the game wasn't over. Towns and Shabazz Muhammad exchanged baskets to push the Timberwolves within seven points but Cody Zeller's dunk with about a minute remaining largely finished off the game. Minnesota would get within three by playing the fouling game before Jeremy Lin made four straight free throws to put them away.
This is a game that the Hornets should have won and thanks to Kemba Walker they did. Not only were the Hornets smart in launching 3's from the start, but also outscored the Timberwolves' bench 38-9