Throughout the summer and in the first few games of the season, it seemed like scoring would often be difficult for the Charlotte Hornets, even painful at times.
Tonight was certainly not one of those times.
The Hornets took down the pleasantly surprising Orlando Magic 120-113 on Sunday night, and although they won by only seven points, the lead was much higher for extended stretches of the game, peaking at 16 during the third quarter.
Offense looked downright easy for this team all night, with Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard leading the way. The two led Charlotte in scoring; Walker with 34 on the night and Howard with 22.
They combined for a few of these last night as well:
Walker was viciously attacking the rim right from the start, and he found exactly what he was after more often than not. He was relentless, and when he missed the mark, Howard was there with four offensive rebounds to keep the possession alive.
We should all be used to it by now, but Walker continues to mesmerize off the dribble. It’s endlessly entertaining watching him size up his man at the top of the key, mentally scrolling through crossovers and fake-outs before selecting just the move that will leave the defender reeling in the dust.
The only blemish was his 2-for-7 showing from 3-point range. After improving significantly as an outside shooter last season, let’s hope tonight was a temporary blip for Walker and not a regression to the mean.
Howard was incredibly efficient himself, shooting 69.2 percent from the field. His flaws are still very much on display, but nights like this remind us why he’s still around. The man takes up an absurd amount of space.
Howard was exactly what Charlotte needs him to be on offense: a roller, dunker, and rebounder. A stray post-up snuck its way in here and there, but for the most part, Dwight was catching lobs and throwing down put backs, just like it should be.
Jeremy Lamb shouldn’t go unmentioned here either. The sixth-year shooting guard went off for 20 points on 9-for-15 shooting, with six rebounds and seven assists to boot. He used his length to his advantage, rising above the pesky hands of defenders for silky midrange pull-ups. Do I dare say the polarizing UConn product has maybe, just maybe, figured it out?
What made this showing even more impressive is how little came from beyond the arc or at the free throw line. Charlotte shot only 33.3 percent from deep on 18 attempts as a team, and shot an embarrassing 8-for-17 from the stripe.
The Hornets made up for it by being extremely efficient from the midrange, typically the least efficient area of the floor. On shots outside the restricted area and inside the 3-point line, Charlotte scored 1.14 points per possession. Take that, Daryl Morey.
The Orlando Magic, who have put up a blistering 112.8 points per 100 possessions through five games, continued to score surprisingly efficiently as well, but their failure to contain Charlotte defensively proved to be their demise.
Still, for a team whose defense seemed to be their only hope for relevance going into the season, the Magic are lighting it up. No complaints here; 89-86 games just aren’t quite as entertaining.
The obvious next step for the Hornets is to figure out how to bottle this dynamic offense and deliver consistently every night, but something tells me it will be harder to do so in the Grindhouse in Memphis than on their home turf.
On the bright side, Kemba should shoot better from deep, and Nicolas Batum will help when he comes back as well. However, Dwight is probably not dropping 22 every night, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is definitely not going to be perfect from the field every night. This type of production will likely be difficult to sustain. Time will tell.