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Kemba Walker finds his way late to help pull out the victory

It was a long night for Charlotte Hornets leader Kemba Walker, yet he managed to hit shots when the team needed it the most.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Kemba Walker was 3-for-18 from the field when he checked back in the game during the fourth quarter. For the first-time All-Star, it was a statline more so resembling his first couple of years in the league when the young pup would frequently venture in the lane only to get his shot mercilessly blocked.

The New York-bred point guard has had his most effective shooting season by far as he has surpassed the .500 mark (52.6% for the time being) in Effective Field Goal Percentage for the first time in his career.

Despite a career high in field goal attempts per 36, Walker’s 7-for-25 performance last night marks only the seventh time this season that he has shot worse than 28%. Kemba’s yet to have a season with less than 11 such games.

Moreover, there used to be a time (in 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15) when Charlotte’s captain finished the night with such a lowly percentage every fourth game he played.

Toronto’s aggressive pick-and-roll schemes did seem to cause trouble for Walker on certain possessions. His average amount of dribbles per touch — normally at 5.49 — reached 6.2 against the Raptors — a number worthy of the first place in the league for the season — as he tried to combat the help from opposing bigs with his handle.

The Raps certainly succeeded in certain points of the game when the visitors turned in some truly blah possessions.

That being said, Captain Courageous (copyright: Eric Collins) mostly seemed to miss shots that he would normally make. His frustration only mounted, though, especially when seemingly being bumped on a few shots from behind:

Said annoyance reached its highest point after a smart move of slowing down to take on contact from Serge Ibaka resulted only in the sound of silence.

Kemba almost deliberately spiked the ball out of bounds to prove a point instead of grabbing what would have been his fifth offensive rebound, the second time the 6-0 guard would have snatched as many in a single game.

Ungrateful rims culminated in two straight misses late in the third, at which point Walker reached the aforementioned 3-for-18 line.

All of the moments that made this happen can’t be characterized better than with a sigh followed by one saying “it’s just one of those nights”.

However, what had become a 9-point deficit was quickly erased by the acrobatics of one Marco Belinelli.

Walker had the chance to check in with 6:30 left, down by three to redeem himself and the rest is history (though, there had to be one more shot attempt with heavy contact from behind).

Some other observations:

And just like that the backup point guard position is seemingly again Brian Roberts’s...

Briante Weber is now the biggest casualty of Charlotte’s lackluster defensive performance against the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. It took him only one breakdown — not ICE’ing the pick-and-roll and allowing Matthew Dellavedova the middle on his first defensive possession after checking in the game — for Clifford to call upon old and trusted veteran B-Rob (no one deserves copyrights for this extremely average nickname).

Roberts proved his worth against the Raptors by hitting both of his 3-pointers, however, you have to hope that Weber gets some more reps once we all can finally wake up and smell the coffee that the playoff dream is over.

Meanwhile, Cody Zeller had the third game in his NBA career where he played more than 20 minutes and didn’t score a single point, per Basketball-Reference. The screen setters were in particular the ones who suffered from the Raptors pick-and-roll defense as their amount of catches seemed to be quite low.

Zeller missed somewhat of a gimmie the only time the he did attempt a shot on a rim run, though (how about Miles Plumlee and that “reverse chin-up”!?).

Lastly, there were some vibes of Walker trying too hard to find his groove and finally get some buckets. Yet when the time came for others to step up — as Cory Joseph face-guarded Kemba for the length of the possession — no one did so.

You’ll rarely see worse efforts in the clutch than this one:

Zeller can be thankful that Norman Powell didn’t have the chance to truly make that steal and turn it into a slam.