Latest Buzz: Free Basketball

by Quinton Wash

by Sam Perley, hornets.com

A common trend emerging with the Hornets lately is not only their consistent presence in overtime games, but also their ability to emerge victorious in them. While it might be uncustomary, Charlotte seems to be at its best when games extend beyond regulation. 

Right now, the Hornets sit with a 5-0 overtime record, which makes them the only team in the NBA currently undefeated in overtime with at least three such games played. The five-consecutive overtime wins is the most by the Hornets to start a season since the 1996-97 NBA campaign when they went 5-0 over the course of the entire year. Charlotte went a franchise-best 54-28 this season as well but was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the New York Knicks. 

The Hornets’ five overtime wins are tied for the most overall in the league this season along with the Dallas Mavericks (5-1). Charlotte is also averaging 17.6 overtime points this season which is second-most in the NBA behind only the Detroit Pistons (20.3). During their 109-99 overtime home win against Toronto on Dec. 17, the Hornets notched 19 points in a single overtime, which was one point shy of tying the franchise record set on Jan. 28, 2011 against Golden State. 

There are certainly both positives and negatives to take into account when it comes to the Hornets’ recent tendency to take games into overtime. For the most part, these overtime games have either been the end result of closely-contested games or a Charlotte comeback, the latter of which was never more prevalent then in both of Charlotte’s games against Sacramento this season. The Hornets managed to rally from a 22-point deficit on Nov. 23 and a 17-point deficit on Jan. 25 to beat the Kings in overtime and double overtime, respectively.  

Any team, especially a young team, can benefit from more time on the court together no matter how it manages to get it. Particularly with so many new players and the high-injury rate on the Hornets already this season, players like Troy Daniels and Brian Roberts have greatly benefited from overtime games, exposing them to much-needed late-game dynamics and unfamiliar situations. Perhaps later on down the line during a late-season playoff run, this experience could be invaluable in a crucial must-win game.

Obviously, the increased playing time also does leave players more susceptible to fatigue and injury. With the Hornets’ frontcourt doing everything in its power to slow down a franchise-record 56-point performance by Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins on Jan. 28, Spencer Hawes, Tyler Hansbrough and Marvin Williams all ended up fouling out. Combined with injuries, Charlotte’s roster dwindled to a mere seven available players in overtime, many of whom were playing out of position and far more minutes than they would on a normal night. Jeremy Lin ended up playing over 50 minutes against the Kings, the most by any player on the team this season.

Two nights later, the Hornets struggled right out of the gates against the Jazz, finishing with a season-low 73 points. Although the team was visible and expectedly stagnant, the loss would have been exponentially worse had it ended up losing the previous game in Sacramento. The Kings were actually in an even trickier position as they flew to Portland immediately following the game and lost to the Trail Blazers, 112-97, on Tuesday night, which is a team they’re battling for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Depending on how you look at the situation, it can be a double-edged sword. Obviously increased repetitions are vital in team growth although sometimes it might unfortunately come at the expense of increased injuries or overly-tired players. Overall, with how challenging it is to win in the league on a night-to-night basis, figuring out a way to win regardless of the circumstances is ultimately one of the most important attributes a competitive team in the NBA can have.

(Statistics courtesy of Charlotte Hornets Public Relations)

Key Matchup vs. Trail Blazers: Nicolas Batum vs. Al-Farouq Aminu 

The Hornets will hope Nicolas Batum has finally overcome his pesky toe injury when they head into Portland to take on Al-Farouq Aminu and the Frenchman’s former Trail Blazer team on Friday night… Despite the nagging injury for Batum, he is still averaging career highs in scoring (14.9 points) and assists (5.3), the latter of which is ranked second in the NBA amongst shooting guards… Charlotte needs Batum to find his rhythm in his former home as he’ll likely match up against the lengthy and explosive Aminu… Now in his sixth season out of Wake Forest, Aminu is also posting career highs in points (10.6), assists (1.5) and three-point percentage (34.7 percent) along with 6.4 rebounds… Although much of Charlotte’s defensive attention will be on guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, Batum and the Hornets still can’t afford to sleep on the versatile Aminu when they take on the Trail Blazers on Friday night at the Moda Center. 

Key Matchup vs. Lakers: Kemba Walker vs. D’Angelo Russell 

Kemba Walker will be tasked to guard one of the NBA’s newest starting point guards on Sunday night when the Hornets head to Los Angeles to take on rookie D’Angelo Russell and the Lakers… Walker has been on a tear in January, averaging 23.8 points on 40.5 percent shooting,  4.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.9 steals over his last 15 games… With the Hornets thin on guards right now, they might need another big-time performance from Walker against the rookie Russell and his Lakers… The second-overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft out of the Ohio State University, Russell is putting up 15.4 points on 50.8 percent shooting, 3.0 assists and 1.4 steals over his last five games for Los Angeles… Locking down defensively on the flashy Russell will be imperative if the Hornets want to end their four-game road trip with a victory at the Staples Center on Sunday night.

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