Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford isn’t much for screaming.
He has said an NBA coach can really lose it at his team about five times a season before that becomes a detriment and the coach just gets tuned out. Clifford decided Tuesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves would be one of those five halftimes, and he picked right.
Several Hornets indicated Clifford balled them out in vivid language. It did the trick. The Hornets outscored the Timberwolves by 19 points in the second half, shooting 66 percent from the field, for a 115-108 victory at Target Center.
Don’t be fooled by the Timberwolves’ 3-7 record. This is a team full of young talent and by February nobody in the NBA will look forward to playing it. The Timberwolves’ potential was on vivid display in the first half, when they outrebounded the Hornets 28-14 and made nine of 17 3-pointers.
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Without being in that locker room, I can make a fair guess what Clifford told them: That they lacked energy and fire, which is unacceptable. That they were playing with their heads down and filling their performances with negativity.
My, how that changed.
The one Hornet who excelled throughout was point guard Kemba Walker, who finished with 30 points, six assists, five rebounds and five steals. Walker was a more dynamic scorer against the Toronto Raptors, but this was his most complete game during an All-Star season.
The difference in the second half was the play of Frank Kaminsky and Nic Batum.
Kaminsky, by his own admission, played horribly Sunday during the road loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was lethargic and unproductive.
Tuesday, he finished with a season-high 20 points off the bench, making eight of 14 shots. The Hornets needed that because the starter at Kaminsky’s power forward position, Marvin Williams, made just one of his nine shot attempts.
Clifford gave Williams a pass for how he played offensively because he had such a tough defensive assignment, guarding Karl-Anthony Towns. Kaminsky took over the game for long stretches of the second half on offense.
Kaminsky demonstrated the full pallet of his offensive skills in this game. When he is just a post-up player or just a 3-point shooter, he sells himself short. Tuesday, he made 3-of-7 from 3-point range and took the ball inside
He got a mismatch on a switch that forced Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio to guard him. Kaminsky had the presence of mind to attack on the dribble, completing a 3-point play on Rubio’s desperate foul.
Batum finished with 16 points, seven assists and five rebounds, the sort of fill-the-box-score performance they need from him more often. Most of that came after halftime, with Batum keeping the Hornets organized offensively while Walker attacked the basket.
Afterward, Williams talked about his hope that Kaminsky realizes how good he can be night-in and night-out.
“I practice against him all the time. I know,” Williams said.
Asked about that, Kaminsky said he’s working at it.
“Someday,” he said.
Hopefully, someday soon because the kid has a ton of talent.