Tom Sorensen

Key to Hornets’ victory over Minnesota? Guys who took 17 shots to score 10 points

Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) had 10 points but a major role in beating Andrew Wiggins (22) and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14) had 10 points but a major role in beating Andrew Wiggins (22) and the Minnesota Timberwolves. AP

If you look at the box score from the Charlotte Hornets’ 118-102 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, you’ll see that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist needed 12 field goal attempts to score eight points and that Marvin Williams needed five field goal attempts to score two points.

Yet without them, the Hornets don’t win.

Kidd-Gilchrist guarded small forwards Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, and when they put the ball up, the shot was contested. Together they were 11 of 29 from the field. Williams stuck to Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ numbers were respectable at the end. But when the game was being decided Williams offered him no room to move.

Head coach Steve Clifford’s teams have always played good defense. He envisioned this team playing good defense. But players, among them Kidd-Gilchrist, were hurt. He didn’t have all his pieces. It was like playing golf without irons.

Finally, all his clubs are available and on Monday his defense was a joy to watch. Also contributing defensively was reserve point guard Michael Carter-Williams. Maybe guys with hyphens and longer names play better defense.

Carter-Williams, 6-6, has the wingspan of a much taller man and makes simple entry passes less simple.

Going into last week, the Hornets had lost six in a row, and there was a supposition that Clifford’s job was in jeopardy. I didn’t and don’t see it. He has consistently won more games than his team’s talent implies he should.

The 2017-18 Hornets, however, have talent, which is the reason the job speculation was so constant and so loud.

But Clifford lacked Nic Batum, the starting guard who does a lot of everything, and he missed Kidd-Gilchrist, the team’s best perimeter defender.

Going into Wednesday’s home game against the Washington Wizards, the Hornets have won two in a row. Before the Minnesota victory, they beat the Los Angeles Clippers at home by 15.

The Hornets are healthy, and Clifford has a bagful of clubs. Be interesting to watch him use them.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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