The Hornets beautiful play up and down the roster wasn’t enough to overcome two late turnovers in an 119-114 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Wednesday’s matchup with the Spurs marked Kemba Walker and the often overlooked the Charlotte Hornets‘ first national spotlight game. Many Hornet fans circled this on the schedule as the teams coming out party. Though things didn’t go according to plan, as two late turnovers sealed the Hornets fate.
The Hornets arguably put up their best team performance of the season, with eight players reaching double figures on the night. The Spurs were led by the robot that is Kawhi Leonard. The man shredded the defensive combo of Nicolas Batum and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to the tune of 30 points on 66% shooting from the floor. Charlotte had no answer for him the entire night and it opened up the Spurs offense.
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Keys To The Contest
Kemba’s Heroics Derailed by Late Miscues
Walker meandered through much of the game without making a big impact, holding firm to 13 points until turning it on in crunch time to keep the Hornets in the ballgame. The UConn product sliced through the vaunted Spurs defense at will late in the game and finished with 26 points. Walker paired his play at the rim with precision shooting and gutsy plays like these were crucial to the Hornets hopes.
Three turnovers inside of two minutes checked Walker’s hot streak, and Tony Parker took full advantage of one of the miscues, canning a deep ball to extend the Spurs lead to five and kill the chance of a Hornets victory. Charlotte turned the ball over 16 times in this contest, an aberration for a team that currently leads the league in turnovers per game at 10.8.
Kawhi Leonard Seeks and Destroys
Leonard continued his dominant play in this contest showcasing an efficient scoring repertoire throughout. He struggled from deep, going 2-7, but was otherwise clinical, attacking the basket at will. Leonard showed up one of the league’s top defenders in MKG throughout and helped open up fellow star Lamarcus Aldridge. The versatile big man turned in a 23 point, seven rebound performance. Aldridge also hit some crucial free throws down the stretch to seal the Spurs victory.
Charlotte welcomed the return of Jeremy Lamb tonight who had missed the past ten games with a hamstring injury. Lamb only scored two points in six minutes but should continue to see his playing time increase as he works his way back into Clifford’s rotation. Cody Zeller, on the other hand, sat out this contest with a shoulder injury and the absence was evident when watching the Spurs attack the rim.
“We have yet to have a game where we have all of our top 9 [players]… We have to be able to improve without the practice time.” -Coach Steve Clifford
Coach Clifford is optimistic Zeller will be able to play in this weekends back-to-back with the New York Knicks and showcase this team at full strength. The Charlotte Hornets will have a day off before the first date with the Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Friday.