Despite the Charlotte Hornets’ close loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, they once again proved that they have what it takes to compete with elite teams.
The Charlotte Hornets were arguably a Kemba Walker knee contusion away from defeating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. While Steve Clifford’s side did lose the game, they were competitive enough to show that they belong among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference. This is no longer a Charlotte franchise that gets blown out by quality opponents.
It took a superhuman performance from LeBron, who put up video game-like numbers of 44 points, 10 assists, and nine rebounds, to overcome the comeback effort of the Hornets. Kemba Walker and company were throwing a barrage at the Cavs but in the end, it wasn’t enough to get the victory. The 116-105 final score wasn’t a reflection of how close the game actually was.
It was only an eight-point game when the team’s leading scorer in Kemba was forced to leave the game because of a knee injury. Charlotte somewhat had the momentum as they were making a comeback in the second half and cutting into Cleveland’s lead. Not every team in the league can put up the fight that the Queen City team did and with their performances against top teams this season, they have proven that they belong among the upper echelon of NBA teams.
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The Hornets may only be 7-8 against teams with a winning record this season but they have pushed title contenders such as the Cavs (twice), the Toronto Raptors, and the San Antonio Spurs to their limits this year. In those four games, they have lost by an average of 6.2 points with the 11 point loss to Cleveland being the only outlier.
A few years ago, Charlotte wouldn’t even be thought of to give LeBron or the Spurs a close game. In all honesty, the Bobcats were the whipping boys of the NBA for the most part. But those days are long gone and this Hornets’ team is never an easy out. They will compete for every game and give each opponent a tough test.
Even dating back to last season, the Hornets pulled off their first win over LeBron in 23 games snapping a losing streak to The King that spanned six years. That moment could be viewed as a turning point in the organization as they were finally able to get that elusive win over one of the all-time greats. Last year the team picked up big wins over the Spurs, the Cavs, and the Raptors while finishing with a respectable record of 18-23 against playoff teams.
They aren’t on the level of the Cavs nor the Warriors but there has been plenty of improvement in Buzz City. After years of mediocrity and not having a chance against great teams, Kemba Walker and company are now neck and neck in matches with them.
While the Charlotte Hornets have played well against contenders this season, they will need to eventually pick up big wins against them if they really want to make a statement. A big win against the Cavs or the Golden State Warriors could give this team the attention they deserve. There is still a long way to go before they are competing for Championships but playing well against quality opposition is a step in the right direction.