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Walker's confidence and performance burns Heat

Kemba Walker scores 34 points as Charlotte knots the series at 2-2

POSTED: Apr 26, 2016 7:44 AM ET

By Sekou Smith

BY Sekou Smith

NBA.com

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— Confidence has never been a problem for Kemba Walker.

For as long as he can remember, he's been at his best with the ball in his hands and the game on the line. From biddy ball, to high school to his championship-winning days at UConn to now, he's always been fine with the pressure that comes with the big moment.

"It's what I'm known for," Walker said. "It's what I do."

Indeed.

Walker was at his clutch best Monday night, leading his Charlotte Hornets to even after four games in their first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat. He christened this moment with a playoff career-high 34 points, including 11 straight after a fourth quarter timeout when the Heat battled back from an 18-point deficit to within just one point down.

"You know how he is, he's so confident late [in the game]," said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. "He'll make the right play, but if there's a seam there, the way he's playing right now, he just saw it and he made the pull-up, then he got on that little run."

Walker drops 34 points

Kemba Walker scores 34 points on 13-28 shooting with four boards, three steals and two blocks versus Miami.

Walker scored 11 of the Hornets' final 13 points, grinding through a series of relentless and physical defenders who did everything humanly possible to try and slow him down, to rattle that unwavering confidence that is his body armor.

It took a Courtney Lee rebound of a Walker miss in the final seconds to seal the win, but it was the power surge provided by Walker and his backup, Jeremy Lin, that paved the way.

"Guts. Guts and heart from a lot of guys," Lin said, making sure to spread the love around. "Marvin [Williams] did a great job on defense the whole game. Kemba [Walker] carried us offensively, Courtney [Lee] with those big-time plays. Everybody, everybody."

Lin tied a playoff career-high of his own (21 points) and set the tone in the first half, pressing the issue and keeping the Heat defense off balance.

But he didn't hesitate to defer to Walker in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, stepping aside as he felt the burn of having to playing 18 grueling minutes against the Heat's superior length and athleticism on both ends of the floor.

"I told him," Lin said, "take us home."

Hornet's on Tying the Series 2-2

The Hornets talk about their victory in Game 4 and tying the series at 2-2.

And Walker obliged, exploiting the Heat at every turn.

"What can you say? He's a brilliant, dynamic pick-and-roll player," said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. "They probably had 40 pick-and-rolls and it wasn't just him either, it was [Jeremy] Lin and both of them are very aggressive. They put you on your heels, back you up, they're ultra-aggressive in making plays on pull-ups or to the rim or drawing fouls. We've probably fouled more in these four games than we have in the last four weeks, but you have to credit them.

"They're aggressive and they make you have to defend with position. [Walker] was very good. But you have to expect that in the playoffs, great performances, very good teams. You just have to find a way to overcome it and overcome great players and guys that are making big plays. Even as great a night as he had, we still had an opportunity at the end."

Theoretically, sure. The Heat were right there. But they spent so much energy digging out of that 18-point hole that the finishing kick wasn't there.

And the damage Walker did not only turned this game in the Hornets' favor, it casts an interesting cloud over the remainder of the series for the Heat, who couldn't hide their frustration at times while trying in vain to slow down Walker and Lin.

"We were fortunate the first few games, he didn't shoot it as well," said Heat star Dwyane Wade. "He's a handful off the pick-and-rolls. There's only so much you can do with that little guy. He's crafty, he's shifty, then he raises up to shoot. He finishes very well. Our guards are fighting. He's playing 40-plus minutes. We are trying to tire him out. Tonight he got it going. Defensively, we held them [Hornets] to 40 percent [shooting]. Obviously, at the end there he hit a couple of big jump shots. Every time we were trying to make a comeback, he kept hitting those shots."

Walker and Lin have to pack their mojo for Wednesday's Game 5 in Miami, where they were bludgeoned in the first two games of this series.

Based on his own personal history, dating back as far as he can remember, Walker's confidence will make the trip.

It is, after all, what he's known for, what he does.

Sekou Smith is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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