Walker Returns to Lead Hornets to Home Win
Charlotte Snaps 4-Game Skid to Start 4-Game Homestand
By Matt Rochinski, hornets.com
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How important is Kemba Walker to the Charlotte Hornets? It’s not a question most Hornets fans would have difficulty answering, and on Monday, Walker showed again why he could be on his way to a second-straight All-Star appearance. Walker returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with a left shoulder injury and scored a game-high 29 points to go with seven assists, three steals and two rebounds in a 104-94 win over the Magic in Charlotte. The Hornets also buckled down defensively, forcing 20 Orlando turnovers while holding their opponent under 100 points for the first time in seven games as they snapped a four-game skid. Charlotte moved to 8-3 at Spectrum Center this season with the victory that opened a four-game homestand.
Charlotte’s bench stepped up big in winning time to start the fourth quarter following a D.J. Augustin jumper to cut the lead to 77-76 with 9:50 remaining. First, Cody Zeller drove past Marreese Speights and threw down an impressive one-handed jam to push Charlotte’s advantage to 79-76. Michael-Carter Williams swiped the ball from Augustin on the Magic’s ensuing possession and was able to feed Frank Kaminsky in transition with a two-handed jam to put the Hornets up, 81-76. Still flustered by Zeller’s dunk over him, Speights was whistled for a flagrant foul one after pushing Zeller to the ground after Kaminsky’s dunk. Zeller hit his two free-throw attempts and Jeremy Lamb dropped two more free throws after being fouled by Wesley Iwundu as the Hornets retained possession, in essence giving Charlotte a four-point possession. Frank Kaminsky capped the 9-0 run with another Hornets free throw as the lead ballooned to double-digits at the 8:41 mark and Orlando would not get any closer than six points the rest of the way.
Hornets Player of the Game (Pick up your Kemba Walker gear here)
Kemba Walker scored a game-high 29 points on 7-of-16 shooting from the field and 14-of-14 shooting from the charity stripe. His 29 points made him the first player in franchise history with 200-career 20+ point games and was his 13th such game in 20 games played this season. Walker’s 14 freebies made tied his career high (14 vs. UTA 1/18/16) and set a career high for most free throws made without a miss in a game (previous: 12-of-12 vs DEN 3/10/14). This also marked the fifth time this season Walker has hit 10+ free throws in a contest, compared to 14 such games in his first 443 career games. Walker also had a team-high seven assists and three steals in the victory.
Magic Player of the Game
Evan Fournier scored a team-high 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field, including 3-of-7 from long range, and connected on 1-of-2 free throws. He also grabbed three rebounds and handed out two assists.
Charlotte is now 9-0 in its last nine contests with Orlando… The Hornets had a season-high 13 steals (previous: 11 at SAS 11/3) and all 10 Charlotte players who saw action had at least one steal… Dwight Howard scored 12 points to go with nine rebounds, brining his career total to 12,361 and moving him into 19th place on the NBA’s all-time leaderboard. He passed Paul Silas (12,357) and Dikembe Mutombo (12,359) in the win… Nicolas Batum recorded his first double-double of the season with 11 points and 11 rebounds… Frank Kaminsky scored 14 points to go with a season-high nine rebounds (previous: seven at TOR 11/29)… Kaminsky led a Charlotte bench that outscored the Magic, 34-26… The Hornets attempted 40 free throws compared to 14 from Orlando. Kemba Walker (14-of-14), Jeremy Lamb (4-of-4), Cody Zeller (4-of-4), Marvin Williams (2-of-2) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (1-of-1) all shot 100 percent from the free-throw line… Charlotte is now 6-0 this season when taking a lead into the fourth quarter… Associate Head Coach Stephen Silas took over coaching duties for Head Coach Steve Clifford who was out with an illness.
Quote of the Night
“I just tried to go out there and help my teammates, tried to push the pace, tried to pick the intensity up, just the things that were missing a little bit in the games that I missed. Some things that I was able to see while I was out. That’s what I wanted to come out and do and I thought I was pretty successful.” - Kemba Walker
The Hornets continue their four-game homestand with an 8 p.m. tip on Wednesday against the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. The game can be seen on ESPN or heard on WFNZ or on the official Charlotte Hornets mobile app.