It’s been a long time coming Hornets fans. Hope you don’t mind this walk down memory lane, but I feel it’s necessary so that everyone can understand the importance of this win.
In the previous 2 playoff appearances, the Charlotte Bobcats were swept away in a fairly easy fashion. In the first appearance, the team assembled was a team build to “make the playoffs”. The Bobcats had been formed and had basically been a laughing stock of the NBA. With the help of Gerald “Crash” Wallace, Stephen “Captain Jax” Jackson, Raymond Felton, and company, the Bobcats did reach the playoffs. That was pretty much all that they did. The Orlando Magic manhandled them, and the result was Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and company sweeping us, ending that first ever playoff appearances for Charlotte’s second entry into the NBA.
Shortly after this sweep, the team was basically dismantled, and we went into a rebuild mode. Following some disappointing drafts and a 7-win season in the lockout year, Al Jefferson was brought into the fold (instead of working on continuing Bismack Biyombo’s “in-game training”) to give us a sort of “star presence” and to hopefully push us into the playoffs again, with a chance to win a game or 2.
Well, we got to the playoffs for a second time in Al’s first season here, but it was at the expense of riding Al so hard that he was injured by the time the playoffs were to begin. Again, we went into a playoff series as the underdog, to face the “Big 3” of Miami, which, in my opinion, the NBA was not going to let look weak. The Bobcats never stood a chance against LeBron and company. While we had some really decent games in that series, though Al wasn’t playing, the referees made certain that enough calls would go Miami’s way to keep the sweep alive in Charlotte. Those who disagree can, but I was in attendance for game 4 of that series in Charlotte, and I saw missed calls to the degree that I was in fear for our players’ safety. At any rate, we were swept again and the organization was left scratching their heads. Let’s just say that a team like the Bobcats would never beat the defending champions.
The return of the Hornets name for the 2014-2015 season would not include a return to the NBA playoffs due to an overweight Al Jefferson struggling to stay on the court for games. The addition of Lance Stephenson, which seemed like a good fit, turned more into a nightmare, with Lance being hurt more than he played. He also was never the greatest fit with the team. Between Al not having a repeat of his first year performance in Charlotte and Lance Stephenson seeing more bench time than playing time due to his total ineffectiveness (worst 3-point shooting % in the history of the NBA at 17.1%), the 33-49 record was nowhere near enough to get us into the playoffs again.
This season, the team added new players via trades and the draft that made everyone feel that the organization was heading in the right direction. The years of the Bob Johnson Bobcats, full of years of not caring about the community, adding bad contracts, and making bad draft decisions, are now far behind us, and Michael Jordan has righted the ship in Charlotte in order to actually make the Hornets gain respect in the NBA. This team has had a battle this season. Faced with injury after injury, the Hornets fought through it all and have arrived at the NBA Playoffs, with a 6th seed and a 48-34 record. Games 1 and 2 in Miami were crazy because I don’t know that I’ve ever see a team maintain 58% shooting from the floor, but somehow they were doing it…until last night.
Last night, the Hornets, less Nic Batum who is out with a left foot strain, took the court in the Hive, to show the Heat exactly what the Hornets organization is all about. Charlotte showed the Heat exactly what Buzz City is all about…FINALLY.
We were out-rebounded (53-47) and out-blocked (8-4), but the way we played overall was the key factor. The Hornets were able to finally shift into their style of basketball. They forced the Heat to turn the ball over 14 times. The Hornets only turned the ball over 3 times. That is a HUGE difference maker. The Hornets had 18 assists to the Heat’s 13. Again, Hornets basketball this season has been all about finding the open man via passing and making good shots. The Hornets did just that. They were 5-18 from the 3-point line, and 21-22 from the foul line. The Hornets kept the Heat shooting only 34.2% from the floor. THAT is the Heat team I have been expecting. I don’t know what exactly the Heat were channeling in Miami, but I’m hoping that whatever it is, it’s gone. It’s time for our Hornets to play out the rest of this series like we did last night. It’s time for them to play like we all know that they can.
Why was the win so important last night? It showed the world that we cannot be taken lightly. It showed that the Bobcats of old are gone and the Hornets of old are back. Sure, in many eyes that aren’t familiar to the organization, they say that it’s just 1 win. To Buzz City, it’s a start. It’s a start to something special. It is the beginning of what will be the Jordan Brand Era of good basketball in Charlotte for years to come. The long-term goal of Michael Jordan’s rebuild in Charlotte was that the Hornets would become a perennial team that would be in the playoffs and they would eventually bring a championship to Charlotte. There have been a ton of player moves, as well as coaching moves. I believe that this team is finally coming to fruition. Look out NBA, Buzz City has its foundation, and the Hornets are locking in to swarm all over the NBA for years to come.
Here are our key players from last night’s game:
Jeremy Lin led all scorers for the Hornets with 18 points on a very reasonable 7-16 shooting. Add to that 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and a steal to make his night complete. Kemba Walker was his partner in crime with 17 points on a less-than stellar 4-19 shooting. Kemba added 3 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals. Those assists are a “must-have” in order for this team to keep winning games. Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky got the nod to start last night after a shaky close to the regular season and rough first 2 games of the playoffs. The result put him as the 3rd top scorer for last night, netting 15 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. Way to go rook! Marvin Williams arrived last night with 12 points 14 rebounds, and a block. We’ve all been waiting for his game to show up, and it did so at a really good time. Cody Zeller also added 12 points, 8 rebounds, and a blocked shot. Al Jefferson did his thing last night, scoring 10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. They weren’t the blockbuster numbers that we used to get from him, but it was what was needed from him against Whiteside. Courtney Lee is struggling with his shot. He had 8 points on 3-11 shooting. He also had 3 rebounds and 2 assists. He had the most minutes last night with 42. I can understand that he is in there for defensive purposes, but at some point, I think we have to get Jeremy Lamb into the game. We can’t be riding our guys into the 40+ minutes mark and not expect them to start breaking down. Spencer Hawes made 1 of his 2 shots, giving him 2 points, a rebound, and an assist. Troy Daniels made the most of the minute he played, making the 1 shot he took for 2 points.
The Hornets have to keep swarming and looking for new ways to attack the Heat. Last night, I don’t think that the Heat expected Lin, Kemba, and Frank to be our “Big 3” for the night. I believe we need to have a different combo stepping up in game 4. This game is all about the unexpected. There are 2 ways to win: have the superstar that carries the team, or have the team in which anyone can step up on any given night. Our team needs to be the latter of the 2, with even scoring throughout the team, a solid defense, patience on the court, and taking care of the ball with smart possessions. The HIVE is alive Hornets fans! Let’s get a win streak going and beat the Heat right out of the playoffs. Let’s take it 1 game at a time though. Let’s not talk about who we want to face in the next round, and let’s definitely not talk about who we should look to be signing in free agency, who we should try to keep, who’s leaving to go where, or even who should we draft. As a team, as fans, let’s focus our energy on wining the next game. Let’s…let’s…
Let’s Go Hornets!