Following a victory against Brooklyn on Sunday, Charlotte came into Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, riding a Eastern Conference best 5 game winning streak. Charlotte and Cleveland entered Wednesday night’s matchup with the season series tied at one. Each of the two previous contests were in Charlotte.
One reason the Hornets were able to pull away from Brooklyn late in the gammon Sunday, was because of their balanced offensive attack, with four starters scoring in double figures. Wednesday night would script a much different story. The only starter to score in double figures was Kemba Walker, with 20 points. With the starters not carrying the load on the offensive end, someone from the bench needed to step up. Frank Kaminsky came off the bench in the first quarter, and scored eight early points, helping Charlotte to a one point lead following the first quarter.
As the game progressed, the turnovers started coming at a quicker pace. Charlotte averages the second fewest turnovers per game in the NBA. Wednesday, the Hornets committed 14 turnovers, many of which lead to easy fast break baskets. Cleveland’s wing players were able to jump passing lanes quite often. Once Lebron James and the Cavs’ get in transition, they are very difficult to stop. Cleveland was able to take advantage of Charlotte’s mistakes, and shoot 49 percent from the field, on the way to a 114-103 victory.
Defensive issues were also a tale of how Charlotte lost this game. After leading by a point following the first quarter, without much scoring coming from the starters, there was optimism inside Charlotte’s huddle. However, the second quarter was a disaster defensively. Giving up 40 second quarter points, Charlotte found themselves in a 63-52 deficit. Team defense seemed to be an issue, which could be expected with so many guys shuffling in and out of the lineup recently. Cleveland is also one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league, at ninth points per game.
Matchup of the Game:
Nic Batum and James are two wingmen that can do a little bit of everything. Shooting 4-of-9 from the field, Batum was held to just nine points, but collected five rebounds, and dished out six assists. James had it going from the start. The four-time MVP shot 8-of-13, scoring 23 points, to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists. James was also able to grab a pair of steals, which lead to easy fast break points. James’ defense certainly seemed to rattle Batum at times. The Frenchman shot just 1-of-4 from behind the arc. Although his scoring production was not up to expectations, Batum was able to get teammates involved, with his six assists.
Player of the Game:
Walker might not want the month of February to end. Besides the Feb. 3 contest against Cleveland, where Walker sat out, Walker has scored at least 20 points in every game this month. Having one of the best months of his career, Walker shot 7-of-13, including three triples, to notch 20 points on the night. Also recording six assists, Walker was able to help the offense in more ways than one.
Charlotte will have a very important matchup on Friday. As we stand now, the Hornets are eighth in the Easter Conference. Friday, Charlotte will travel to Indiana, to take on the Pacers at 7 p.m. The fifth place Pacers are just a game and a half ahead of Charlotte, creating an opportunity for the Hornets to gain ground in the standings with a victory.