Cardiac Kemba is the go-to guy down the stretch in close games for the Charlotte Hornets but in their game without him, it highlighted the team’s struggles in crunch time.
In Kemba Walker‘s first missed game of the season, the Charlotte Hornets fell to the Boston Celtics in a game where the team stumbled down the stretch. Scoring late in close games is often overlooked in the NBA but it was clear from that performance that the Steve Clifford’s side struggles to score the ball in the clutch. It isn’t always easy with their starting point guard but it was even more difficult without him.
Just taking a look at the stats show why Kemba is so important to the team and even more so in the fourth quarter. Walker averages 6.7 points per game in the fourth which is ninth best in the NBA. He is also huge in clutch situations as only Russell Westbrook has scored more points in fourth quarter clutch situations so far this season.
Despite these gaudy numbers in the winning time, the Charlotte Hornets are only 9-8 in these games that feature clutch situations. The team’s struggles down the stretch were even more evident with Walker not in the lineup. They were battling with Boston the whole game and even had a chance to win as it was a close game late in the fourth but points were hard to come by without Kemba down the stretch.
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The Hornets were only down by one point with 5:45 left in the game but after a flagrant foul by Marco Belinelli on Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics took over. They went on a 12-0 run and finished the quarter on an 18-9 run. Boston ended up beating Charlotte 27-19 in the period as they won the game 96-88.
The main reason for the loss was the Hornets’ lack of creativity, playmaking, and scoring ability in the fourth. This is a direct result of not having Walker on the court.
But the problems go far beyond just the single game. The disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics simply highlighted the problems.
Even with Cardiac Kemba, who is one of the best clutch scorers in the NBA, the team struggles in clutch situations because of the little help that the point guard gets from his teammates. Another argument could be made against Walker and his inability to rely on his teammates near the end of games but with the stats and scoring numbers he puts up, he is the first scoring option.
The 26-year old is having a career-year and averaging 22.6 points per game and 5.2 assists per game. While he is enjoying the best season of his career, the team is having trouble closing out games in the fourth quarter. This problem doesn’t have a simple solution but one thing that is clear is that the team rely heavily on Kemba Walker down the stretch and if he isn’t there, major scoring issues are sure to follow.
The Charlotte Hornets will either need to be more efficient late in games or Kemba Walker will need to be better at carrying them through rough stretches. Winning late in games and closing out the opposition is something that the best teams in the league do and Steve Clifford’s side hasn’t proven that they can do that just yet. At least they have one of the best clutch scorers in the league to help figure it out.