There’s no place like home. That certainly seems to be the case for the Charlotte Hornets as they have taken full advantage of a recent homestand, going 5-1 during that span, with the one loss being a tightly contested game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The team is playing well, their defense isn’t quite what it has been in years past but it is still stout enough to be ranked tenth in the league in defensive efficiency. And part of the increase in points allowed could be attributed to the increase in pace on offense, as the Hornets are fifth in the league in offensive efficiency.
They are tops in the league in protecting the ball, always a point that has been stressed by Clifford coached teams. They also rebound defensively at a high rate but they leave much to be desired on the offensive glass, where they rank dead last. Still, the early returns on a team that has only played together for a few months are encouraging, and it’s hard to think that the chemistry won’t improve with time.
Nic Batum is becoming the player that he was brought in to be; a heady player that can help facilitate the offense while also having the versatility to create for himself as a scorer. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well the past few games and he has the tendency to turn the ball over, but he is becoming more aggressive in his role as a leader and he always helps the team in other areas with his all around skill set.
Batum’s numbers for the season are on par with some of the best to ever put on the purple and teal. If he keeps up this pace he will join Jamal Mashburn and the late Anthony Mason as the only Hornets to average 16+ points, 6+ rebounds, 4+ assists and 1+ steals per game. That’s certainly good company and it points to yet another reason that the Hornets should retain Batum’s services for the future.
Kemba Walker has started to hit his stride as well, particularly in a 39-point outburst in an overtime win against the Kings. He has been shooting more efficiently from the field and has looked more comfortable as a facilitator on the floor.
Off the bench, the Hornets have continued to ride Jeremy Lin and Jeremy Lamb, currently the NBA’s highest scoring reserve backcourt duo. Lamb has played great all season and continues to look like a steal for Charlotte. He has notched 13 games with 10-or-more points this season, only scoring in double figures 11 times in all of 2014-15. Lin has already logged four 15-or-more point performances in his first year in Charlotte. Lamb is averaging a career- best 12.8 points per game in 2015-16 and Lin is averaging 10.8 points per game.
LOOKING AHEAD TO DECEMBER…
After Wednesday, the Hornets will enter a December slate that features quite a few challenges along the way. As the standing sit now, every team on the schedule has a winning record except for the underperforming Wizards, the .500 Pistons and the hapless Los Angeles Lakers; and by no means should the Hornets look past those three opponents.
The Hornets are 10-7 overall, and 8-2 at home going into Wednesday’s game against the Golden State Warriors. The game will be the last of seven straight home games and Charlotte will need to be hitting on all cylinders to beat the Warriors, who are on a historic 19-0 start to their season. But all good things must come to an end, so why can’t the Hornets be the ones to break the Warriors win streak?
To say this is a big game is an understatement. While Charlotte certainly doesn’t want to get caught up in a track meet style scoring battle with the defending NBA champs they do have the offensive firepower to keep up as long as they can play solid defense against a team that has been moving the ball as crisp as anyone so far this year.
The Hornets pushed the Cavs to the brink in a hard fought game a few days ago, so who’s to say that they can’t pull off the upset on Wednesday? A victory could serve as a HUGE punctuation mark for a Charlotte team that is on the rise.
The Hornets played the Warriors twice last season; they lost the first game out west by 25, but in Charlotte they carried a lead into the fourth quarter before eventually falling by five…and that was with last season’s slow paced offense. So hypothetically, we can compete with the Warriors if we bring our A game.
Of course there’s always a buzz when Charlotte native and defending NBA MVP Stephen Curry comes to town. The Warriors also boast sharpshooter Klay Thompson and versatile forward Draymond Green, the teams leader in rebounding and assists.
The Warriors are deep so the Hornets depth will most likely be tested in this matchup. Golden State can take advantage of turnovers with their transition game so protecting the ball will be more key than ever in this game.
The Hornets need to come out focused in this game as well. They are 5-0 at home where leading after the first quarter and they are 8-0 whenever they score 100+ points. Just for fun, they’re also 4-0 at home on a Wednesday. They play their best when Batum is scoring the ball well, so getting him into a rhythm will be important for Charlotte.
The Hornets have been as stout as any team at home this season. They are averaging the most points per game at home in the Eastern Conference, with 107.8, the second most three-point field goals in the conference per game, with 10.0 per game at home, and they have logged the second most wins at home in the East (8-2).
Unfortunately, the Hornets will be playing most of December without veteran big man Al Jefferson though; he went down in the first quarter of Sunday’s win against the Bucks and is likely out for the next 2-3 weeks with a strained left calf.
The Hornets built depth in the frontcourt this offseason and it will be on display during the next few weeks as the team tries to make up for the absence of Jefferson. Cody Zeller will likely step into the starting role at center but the minutes will also be spread around to Spencer Hawes, rookie Frank Kaminsky and seldom used, fan favorite Tyler Hansbrough.
The Hornets haven’t looked this good in a very long time, it’s a great time to be a fan of our local professional sports teams! The games only get tougher and more meaningful from here on out. Until next time Hornets fans, KEEP BUZZING!!!
you can follow David W. Walters @Original_DWade.