Kemba Walker looks like one tired basketball player.
During his past three games, Walker – the Charlotte Hornets’ All-Star point guard – is shooting 11-of-42 from the field. Against the Golden State Warriors last week, he had his only game this season when he failed to reach 10 points, finishing with seven.
Prior to that Golden State game, Walker had scored 20 or more in five consecutive games. He was absolutely deserving of this first All-Star appearance. But he sure looks right now like a guy in need of rest.
Four more games and then the Hornets get an All-Star break of about a week. Walker has obligations, to be in New Orleans not only for the All-Star Game, but to also compete in the NBA’s annual 3-point contest.
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I hope in and around all that, he gets a true break, because fatigue sure looks like an issue right now.
He has all but carried this team through the first 50 games. The Hornets never can seem to get healthy – center Cody Zeller missed his seventh consecutive game with a quad contusion – so Walker needs to be almost super-human to keep this team in playoff contention.
Tuesday, he got some help. Six other Hornets scored in double figures. While Walker shot poorly (4-of-20 from the field), he got to the foul line nine times and finished this game with 17 points.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said there is a good chance Zeller will be well enough to play Thursday against the Houston Rockets. That would be a relief. Clifford’s preferred starting five this season – Walker, Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Zeller – have all been available in only 27 of 52 games.
The Hornets’ record when all five are available is 16-11, so it’s a safe bet that if those five can get healthy, this team will qualify for the playoffs. What seed they might end up is anyone’s guess, although it’s hard to see them getting up to the fourth seed and home-court advantage.
Some other thoughts off a 111-107 victory against the Brooklyn Nets:
The Nets are as bad as their 9-43 record would suggest. They have a star in center Brook Lopez and next to nothing else. Point guard Jeremy Lin, who signed with the Nets after an impressive season with the Hornets, has been out for weeks with a hamstring strain.
Gruesome 4th-quarter defense
As bad as the Nets are, they still managed to score 35 fourth-quarter points on 54 percent shooting from the field. What was once a 17-point lead slipped to three with 25 seconds left.
The Hornets don’t seem to guard anyone in the final quarter. Part of that is a lack of depth; Clifford has to play his starters so much that they are worn down in those final 12 minutes.
Winning was great and all, but allowing a team as limited as the Nets are to score 70 second-half points is concerning.
Big night for MKG and Batum
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has always been important to this team’s energy. I thought he was particularly effective in that regard Tuesday. He finished with 14 points and seven rebounds and was constantly finishing strong around the basket.
Batum had one of his best games this season, with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists. He cut down on his turnovers, finishing with two. Particularly with Walker looking tired, it was crucial for Batum to control the flow of the offense.