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Kemba Walker shines, but Charlotte Hornets fall to Cleveland Cavaliers 121-109

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Walker dropped 37 points, but Charlotte couldn’t get past the hot-handed NBA Champs

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Charlotte Hornets Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets lost to the Monstars-- sorry, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in the final game of the calendar year, 121-109. Kemba Walker continued to make his case for the All-Star game, ending with a game-high 37 points on 13-22 shooting. Nicolas Batum chipped in 13 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 12 points and eight rebounds after getting off to a quick start in the first quarter.

The offense of the Hornets looked pretty solid throughout the game. Charlotte actually shot better than Cleveland from the field (51.3 percent opposed to the Cavs 50.6), but the defense was no match for LeBron James, Kevin Love and the rest of the Cavs dominant offense. James seemed to be doing whatever he wanted from the start, scoring 17 points in the first quarter, and ended with 32. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played solid defense for a lot of the game, but when LeBron gets into a zone, it really doesn’t matter who’s guarding him.

It wasn’t just LeBron who hurt the Hornets tonight, the Cavs shared the ball, and had three players score 20 points. Kevin Love finished 28 points and 10 rebounds. The Cavs were without Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, but their absence did not seem to phase Cleveland at all, as they got contributions from multiple bench players.

Jordan McRae stepped up big time and scored 20 points, and Kay Felder scored 13 on 5-6 shooting. Three-point defense has been a problem for the Hornets and that continued tonight, as the Cavs hit 14 deep balls. The Hornets dug themselves into a hole early on, and had to play catch-up the whole game, and couldn’t quite get over the hump.

Kemba did his best to get the Hornets back into the game a few different times in the second half, taking over multiple times, but every time the Hornets seemed to be making a run, the powerful offense of the Cavs seemed to responded with a spurt of their own.

Charlotte finishes 2016 at 19-15, and in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They have a few tough games in the first couple weeks of 2017 (at home against Oklahoma City on the 4th, and on the road against San Antonio on the 7th) and have a good opportunity to prove they belong to be mentioned among the top teams in the East.