It was quite significant that the Charlotte Hornets faced the Toronto Raptors a day after the All-Star Game starting lineups were revealed. As it could have been predicted, Hornets leader Kemba Walker finished behind seven other Eastern Conference guards in the voting. Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan — who will start in the game — and Kyle Lowry were among them.
However, Walker outplayed both at the Spectrum Center, giving him a win of its own kind against Toronto’s duo.
Kemba needed three quarters to score a whopping 32 points on only 18 shooting possessions (!!!) and also dish out 8 assists. During that same time period Lowry and DeRozan combined for 39 points on 40 shooting possessions and just 5 assists.
It was Walker’s offensive output that propelled the Hornets to an offensive rating of 117.7 for the game and made the difference between the two teams.
The expert passing, however, was, perhaps, the aspect of Kemba’s game that got lost in the shower of 3-pointers that he put on.
Here the New York-bred point guard got the Hornets not one, but two great looks in a single possession by exploiting a 5-on-4 advantage:
It wasn’t the only possession where he danced around with Jonas Valanciunas to create an opening for a teammate. A switch on the next clip forced Toronto to put more bodies in Kemba’s path to the basket.
The moment DeMarre Carroll approached to help, Kemba moved away from the trap and found Carroll’s assignment Marvin Williams for a 3-pointer:
That play would have been even better had Cody Zeller set a back-screen on Norman Powell to prevent a close out by him.
Charlotte’s work on the defensive end also deserves praise. While Toronto’s two stars produced a relatively efficient number of points (0.97 per shooting possession) on not-so-easy looks, the Hornets didn’t give away anything for free.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist showed discipline and knowledge of the scouting report by staying down and not biting on DeRozan’s endless pump fakes.
Cody Zeller trapping any pick-and-roll ball handler that thinks of going baseline has been a staple of Charlotte’s defense for some time now. This time around it was DeRozan who found himself in a double-team and, of course, it had to be Marvin Williams who read the pass Toronto’s shooting guard wanted to make:
Some other observations:
This was only Charlotte’s second win against a .600 team, bringing their overall record against such opponents to 2-10.
Moreover, it doesn’t even seem like you can count the first, a win over the George Hill-less Utah Jazz early in November. It was quite some time before the Jazz got their game together and said goodbye to floating around the .500 mark.
Nevertheless, blowing the Raptors out gave this particular victory even more value. It was plausible that the Hornets would have entered the second game of a back-to-back against the Brooklyn Nets exhausted after a fierce battle.
Now both teams enter that contest having rested their best players down the stretch as the Nets made light work of the New Orleans Pelicans in a 143-114 shellacking.
Lastly, one cannot post this column and not mention the fabulous Kemba Walker and-one from downtown. The run the Hornets were on, the degree of difficulty, the luck of a bank shot, the Eric Collins reaction - all of those factors will allow it to go down as one of this season’s most memorable shots and performances.
Just ask Paul Silas how cool that moment was.