Court Vision: Hornets win third straight on Walker’s heroics
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kemba Walker hit another game-winning shot to lift the Hornets to a 98-94 win over New Orleans.
There have been numerous games this season when things didn’t go right for Walker, especially early on this season when he took nearly every last-second shot to try to either win or tie the game.
He hit a few, but missed more than he made.
Wednesday night, he made it with 1.4 seconds left. He slung up a wild shot from the right baseline with a Pelicans player draped all over him. The ball kissed off the glass and went in, while being fouled at the same time. He made the free throw to put Charlotte (13-24) up three, and all but secure the win.
When it came time to draw up the last play, there was never any doubt who was going to get the ball and take the last shot if at all possible.
"If I’d try to draw something else up, he would’ve (erased the play from the clipboard)," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
For Walker, there was never any doubt in his mind, either. He wants the last shot. It’s almost as if he needs to take the last shot.
"He knows who wants it," Walker said of Clifford. "Even my teammates. They’re like, ‘Kemba, win the game.’ When you have guys that are confident in you, of course I want to take the last shot."
Right from the get-go, it was clear that the Hornets had nary a person that could stop Anthony Davis from scoring. Heck, they couldn’t even contain him. But they didn’t need to so long as Walker was going to match him shot for shot.
Davis finished the night with 32 points on 15-of-24 shooting, but Walker equaled him by going 12 of 24 from the field for 31 points, with his three biggest points coming with 1.4 seconds left to lift Charlotte to victory.
It’s the third straight win for the Hornets, who now stand just three games behind Miami for the final playoff spot.
It was also the third straight game in which Walker has scored 30 or more points.
"The difference now is that he’s shooting the ball better," Clifford said. "He’s really played at a very high level all year. Early in the year, he didn’t shoot the ball as well, but he spent so much time in the summer that I felt confident the ball would start going in.
"He’s in the paint and putting so much heat on the defense in different ways."
Hornets shooting guard Lance Stephenson, who was expected to do big things this season when he signed as a free agent, has done little to meet those expectations.
First, it was his poor shooting as he’s made just 38.6 percent of his shots, including a horrid 15.1 percent from 3-point range.
But even though his shooting has been off, Stephenson was still very valuable in terms of being second on the team in rebounding and assists.
However, he’s missed the last 12 games due to a pelvic strain.
When it first happened, it was thought he’d be back right around Christmas. As of now, there’s no set timetable for his return.
"He did part of shootaround (Wednesday), so that is a step forward," Clifford said. "He still has a ways to go. He can’t really explode and push off on that side. But, he has progressed to the point where he is able to do shootaround."
The Hornets are 7-5 during his absence as they had a four-game winning streak, followed by a five-game losing streak and how have won three in a row.
9: Despite the absence of center Al Jefferson, the Hornets still matched Davis and the Pelicans with nine offensive rebounds.
40: Even though Davis had 32 points, the Hornets matched the Pelicans with 40 points scored in the paint.
"Guys are coming in and filling that role and understand what they have to do," Walker said of the people taking the spots for injured Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson.
Follow Brett Jensen on Twitter @Brett_Jensen