Was there any doubt of the outcome? Perhaps.
Any doubt of who was going to take the potential game-winning shot for the Charlotte Hornets?
“None,” said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. “I can’t answer many things so definitively, but I can tell you on that one.”
As he had done most of the game, guard Kemba Walker was the offensive catalyst in the final quarter to spark Charlotte’s 98-94 come-from-behind win over New Orleans Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Walker’s 31 points was his third consecutive game scoring 30 or more but his final points of the game were easily the most dramatic and the most difficult.
Charlotte (13-24) battled back from a seven-point halftime deficit to take an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets’ advantage quickly disappeared, however, and New Orleans (17-18) moved back ahead 94-92 on a basket from Anthony Davis with 18.2 seconds left in the game.
After the Hornets took a timeout to set up a play, the ball –as expected – ended up with Walker, who lofted an off-balance jumper from the right corner while being fouled. It hit nothing but net.
Walker’s free throw gave the Hornets a 97-94 lead and Marvin Williams stole the Pelicans’ ensuing inbounds pass and made one of two free throws for the final margin.
“I just tried to make a play. Time was running down and I was trying to get as far as I can to the basket and try to get a shot off,” said Walker, whose 31 points was his third consecutive game of 30 or more, a career-best.
“I don’t how that ball went in. The angle was super-awkward. I just got it up.”
Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, who defended Walker on the play, didn’t mince words: “He made a tough shot.”
The win was the third consecutive for the Hornets, coming on the heels of a pair of road victories at Orlando and Boston.
The Hornets’ chemistry, if not their resiliency, continues to improve as the team remains without the services of Lance Stephenson (pelvic sprain) and Al Jefferson (left groin strain).
“Obviously, we want those guys back because they make us better, but I like the spirit that we have in the game and I like the way the ball is moving,” Clifford said. “I particularly like the way we’re playing defensively.”
Short-handed and not shooting the ball particularly well – the Hornets went 43 percent from the field – Charlotte had to battle hard to overcome a 13-point second-half Pelicans lead.
“We fell apart,” said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. “They played harder for 48 minutes.”
Even when the Hornets saw their late-game lead disappear, Walker said he never sensed any panic from his teammates.
“This is the NBA, teams are always going to make runs and you have to stay confident in yourself,” he said.
“That’s what we did. We didn’t get down. We didn’t get frustrated. We just took it up another notch.”
The Hornets get no time to rest as they return to action Thursday night at Toronto in the teams’ first meeting this season.