It was going just well. The Charlotte Hornets were unlocking the potential of a lineup with Frank Kaminsky at center and entered the break after the third quarter with a 17-point lead.
Said unit of the usual starters plus Kaminsky hasn’t been doing that bad, either. Even if Big Frank’s weaknesses on defense have showed and the Hornets record in these games has been an unfair 2-16, they’ve been only -2.8 in 122 minutes.
That’s not even close to the mark that Cody Zeller-centered units have recorded (+8.9 net rating in 506 minutes), however, the reason for the recent losses is moreso the trickle-down effect that has occurred with a central piece in Zeller being sidelined.
Kaminsky’s skillset has made life difficult for opposing centers during this stretch, but it’s been a question of him actually exploiting that and making shots. Last night he did so successfully as Lucas Nogueira (and Jonas Valanciunas to some degree) struggled to defend in space.
This is the stuff you expect out of Kaminsky against centers. It’s a nice trick of putting Bebe on your back and slowing down to fake him out. Meanwhile, quicker fours can keep Big Frank in front of them and rejoice after his difficult tear drops.
Nevertheless, Toronto cut down the deficit in no time, just like they did around the first break in between two quarters.
First time around a more starter-heavy Raptors unit demolished the nonhazardous combination of Brian Roberts, Marco Belinelli, Treveon Graham, Marvin Williams and Mike Tobey (-57.3 net rating).
Yes, Jeremy Lamb did have three personal fouls — and was thus taken out for Graham —, however, it’s unlikely that foul trouble would have plagued the wing who has averaged 15.3 minutes per game ever since his return from injury.
Throwing out such a lifeless unit was like asking for a beat down.
Coach Steve Clifford adjusted before the fourth quarter by leaving Kemba Walker in the game, a decision probably made thanks to the upcoming All-Star break.
Though, a reasonable decision, it certainly looked like Walker was gassed as he slowly walked the ball up the court for a couple of possessions, without the usual vigor that would follow:
Mind you that the Hornets still created decent looks, like the Marvin Williams 3-pointer on the previous clip.
Yet they didn’t go down and bad floor balance contributed to the Raptors scoring 10 points within eight seconds off a Hornets miss or turnover to make it 75-70.
This Jeremy Lamb miss right outside the paint was turned into a 4-on-3 fast break by Kyle Lowry rebounding the ball and pushing it right away to stay in front of Lamb:
Or how about a Marco Belinelli layup just not going down and Marvin Williams getting caught in a battle for the offensive rebound that resulted in another Toronto advantage and Cory Joseph wide open 3-pointer:
Insert your favorite cliche of “needing to make shots in the NBA to win games” here.
The Hornets could have had this one, if not for a poor five minutes to start the fourth quarter.
Some other observations:
It seems like no matter what combination coach Clifford will put out there, it will rebound well. The Hornets have played 348 minutes with Kaminsky at center this season and have rebounded 79.8 percent of the available defensive rebounds during that time, per nbawowy.com.
Charlotte is at 79.7 as a team, which ranks them second in the league.
Kaminsky, however, has been responsible for only 17.5 percent of available rebounds on such lineups. All of Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams grab a bigger percentage of defensive rebounds this season.
You can see the troubles he has when matched up against bigger centers like Valanciunas. He can do something as careful as boxing out the Lithuanian with his face turned to him, yet still somehow allow him to slip by for an easy two:
As we’re on the topic of tip-ins and bigs, one cannot forget to congratulate Mike Tobey and post a clip of his first basket in the NBA:
Poor Christian Wood is meanwhile wondering what kind of numbers he has to average in the D-League (or rather the G-League) to be in front of Tobey in the pecking order.