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Clippers outlast Hornets in hero ball exhibition

Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum combined for 14 made 3-pointers to force overtime against the Clippers, yet it ultimately wasn’t enough for the Hornets to pull out the win.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Taking the stalworth Los Angeles Clippers to an overtime wasn’t exactly the result of a perfectly played game on the Charlotte Hornets part.

Let’s look at Nicolas Batum, per example. The Frenchman missed his first two shots of the third quarter and thus reached a lowly 1-of-7 from the field for the game. His attempts from the mid-range were of his signature “forced and overly difficult” variety.

Luc Mbah a Moute — continuing what he started half a month earlier at Charlotte — kept catching Batum ball-watching for backdoor cuts on the other side of the court.

However, then the second-year Hornet began drilling 3-pointers. At first he stopped the bleeding of a 17-point deficit by making two wide open long balls.

By the end of the game he was knocking down tough looks from deep coming off screens or after pulling up off the dribble and became the third Hornet ever to nail eight 3-pointers in a single game (Ben Gordon and Troy Daniels are the other two).

All in all, that’s what turned a decent Hornets effort into them actually giving the Clippers a scare. The game wouldn’t have gone down to the wire if Batum and Kemba Walker hadn’t combined for 14-of-23 from behind the 3-point line on some improvised looks.

The Clippers front line of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin can actually be quite the target for Charlotte’s current starting lineup with Frank Kaminsky in the middle. You should be able to use Kaminsky’s and Marvin Williams’s range to take the Clips bigs out of their comfort zone.

That did happen on a handful of possessions, yet the untapped opportunities still stuck out like a sore thumb. Kaminsky could have created a 3-pointer for Williams here instead of chasing a look for himself:

Therefore the made threes and off-the-dribble shots seem to be a bit of smoke and mirrors. An offensive rating of 116.1 probably wouldn’t have been there on a diet of such shots on most other nights.

Unfortunately for Charlotte fans, Blake Griffin showcased his own isolation magic by recording his highest-scoring game since December 8, 2014. The Hornets just had no answer for his shoulder shimmies and spin moves.

Yet when the opportunity came and the Clippers — the starters of whom annually put up 110 points per 100 possessions — missed four straight shots in the overtime, the Hornets themselves came up empty in three possessions of one-on-ones and one more which ended with a turnover.

Their window of opportunity closed and Griffin (only 2-of-6 from the field in OT) finally capitalized on an isolation attempt of his own with another spin-o-rama score.

An argument can be made that the missed goaltending call on Jordan’s supposed block against Kemba Walker, the iffy foul on a Blake Griffin roll to the basket and the up-close-and-personal defense by Chris Paul on the last possession cost Charlotte the game.

It will be interesting to see the NBA officiating report due to those plays.

However, the Hornets aren’t without fault either. When the game was on the line in the extra five-minute session, all the coaching staff did was put the ball in Kemba Walker’s hands and have Christian Wood set a screen for him.

It’s basically asking him to play some more hero ball.

What’s the worst situation in which to start off such a possession? In between the halfcourt and sideline, facing the pesky Chris Paul.

Some other observations:

Charlotte’s injury woes and foul trouble to Frank Kaminsky and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist seemingly forced coach Steve Clifford to make some gambles that he wouldn’t bet on otherwise.

Even though he had ordered to hack DeAndre Jordan in both Hornets - Clippers affairs of the 2014-15 season, it is a strategy that is used scarcely by the Hornets.

What was even more surprising, though, was Clifford going with a lineup that had Marvin Williams at center and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the four, once Kaminsky picked up his fifth (and later on sixth) foul.

It created even more space in the lane for the Hornets on offense:

Despite the switchability of Williams, MKG and Batum, there was a reasonable chance that Griffin could take advantage of such a unit, though:

With Kidd-Gilchrist fouling out, it was the home-town kid in Christian Wood who had the chance to play the most meaningful minutes of his Charlotte Hornets career.

His springiness, mobility and supposed touch from outside (Wood has converted 24.6 percent of his 3-pointers in the D-League on 2.8 long balls per game) are traits that are intriguing enough to be delighted over the team option that the Hornets have on him this offseason.

Wood can look out of sorts on defense and it’s understandably so. The second-year man has played 194 total minutes in his NBA career.

The 6-11 UNLV product relies on his vertical practically in every situation. Opposing guards can look for last-minute drop-off passes when attacking the rim against Wood since he usually defends such drives by leaping for a block.

Nevertheless, there must have been some aspects to defense that he has already picked up in the Hornets system. This typical cross-rotating that the Hornets do when the ball is swung by the pick-and-roll ball handler to the man in the weak-side corner is something that wings regularly have to do, much moreso than Charlotte’s bigs:

It’s quite impressive that Wood reacted accordingly on the fly.