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Spurs machine leaves Hornets bench in dust

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The Charlotte Hornets withstood the test of the San Antonio Spurs for two and a half quarters until their bench unit crumbled.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte’s tactical preference of packing the paint on defense and offering heavy perimeter help to shut down driving lanes was quite the fuel for San Antonio’s potent passing-heavy style.

Within the first possession of the game the Spurs were whizzing the ball around the court and Hornets defenders worked like dogs to keep up with each upcoming threat. To their credit they were up to the task as they battled evenly with the Spurs and even headed in the halftime break with a three point advantage.

Nicolas Batum’s absence — filled out by Jeremy Lamb — could have in particular bothered Charlotte’s chances of doing so.

However, while the result on the scoreboard seemed promising, the Spurs machine had been humming the whole half and producing quality looks. Even though San Antonio attempts only 22.5 3-pointers per game and ranks 29th in the league in this regard, they had already taken 20 3-pointers (and made seven) in the first half of yesterday’s game.

This isn’t an opponent that stops searching after you deny them one or two decent looks:

As in the last play -- where Jeremy Lamb and Marvin Williams lent too much man power for a Danny Green drive -- the effort was mostly acceptable, yet the slip-up itself didn’t go unpunished.

The Spurs were also beginning to exploit bad transition defense spacing by hitting a couple of open 3-pointers:

Thus it felt like the Hornets had it coming once the bench hit a dry spell to end the third quarter. The aforementioned mistakes shouldn’t happen if you want to play such a particular defensive style and stop the Spurs from rolling to a 106.5 offensive rating for the game.

Losing the grip on the game, though, did come in a time when the Hornets still had the lead. Upon Frank Kaminsky and Ramon Sessions checking in the game — to make it a lineup of three bench players — Charlotte was leading 61-60 with 4:00 left in the third quarter.

What followed was a 15-2 run by San Antonio due to three turnovers (the Hornets committed an unusually high mark of five turnovers for the quarter) and subsequent baskets in transition:

When Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist checked back in the game down 66-80 and with 10:36 left the game was pretty much under wraps in San Antonio’s favor.

Some other observations:

An attaboy to Treveon Graham who seems perfectly ready of checking into a game and competently guarding the other team’s best player. Graham put together two nice possessions of shadowing Kawhi Leonard’s movement and staying in front of him:

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist making five mid-range jumpers in one game must be his NBA career-high. Congratulations to him for that!

According to stats.nba.com, pull ups make up for a quarter (26.3 percent) of MKG’s field goal attempts and he’s only making 34.7 percent of them. However, you almost have to take such possessions as a plus. The Hornets are again better with him on the court for the season and have to keep him involved on offense.

Finally, the optics of second round draftee/Euro stash Davis Bertans going for 21 points — with many of those points coming at the expense of Frank Kaminsky — while Big Frank throws up an 0-fer from the field are just bad.

There’s this small urge I have to count up all the 3-point airballs Kaminsky has shot this season.