In the midst of a disappointing season that saw their best player be the subject of many a trade rumor up through the Feb. 8 deadline, the Charlotte Hornets have suddenly… finally… caught fire.
Their 114-98 whipping of the visiting Detroit Pistons on Sunday gave the Hornets their fourth consecutive victory, tied with Indiana for the longest winning streak in the Eastern Conference, and at 27-33, are just four games behind Miami for the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
While All-Star point guard Kemba Walker (17 points) stayed put and continues to Charlotte’s be main man and while center Dwight Howard (17 points, 12 boards) is the leading supporting cast member, it’s been its suddenly scorching bench that’s spurred the hot streak.
Against the Pistons (28-31), the Hornets’ bench bunch outscored their counterparts, 51-28, leading the way to the victory.
“This is maybe the best three to four games we’ve played all season just because we’re starting to put it together, especially on the defensive end,” backup center Tyler Zeller said. “Everyone is tied together.”
Charlotte’s 14-0 run, ignited entirely by its bench, helped the Hornets to outscore Detroit in the second quarter, 38-27. During that run, backup forward Frank Kaminsky (6 points), Zeller (4) and fellow reserve Traveon Graham (4) accounted for all of the points.
“Everyone’s being aggressive, moving the ball well and playing good defense,” Kaminsky said. “That’s where we struggled for a lot of the season, is figuring out each other, how we’re playing defense with each other. I think we’ve started to figure it out.”
"Balanced play, energy level, readiness, our purpose of play at both ends has been better and that's what you have to do." – Coach Clifford on the key to the team's four-game winning streak pic.twitter.com/3QgU2Ivqpa
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 26, 2018
All 10 players who saw action for Charlotte scored by halftime, when the Hornets had built a comfortable 70-46 advantage. Seven Hornets finished with 10 points or more.
The All-Star break proved to be a tonic for Kaminsky, in particular. In the three games coming out of the break, the former University of Wisconsin star is averaging 13.3 points, while shooting 44.8 percent from the field and a blistering 62.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I needed a little bit of a break,” Kaminsky said. “Get away mentally, get away physically. It was good for not only me, but it feels like it was good for everybody.”
The Hornets will face a tall task if they are going to extend the winning streak to five as they play at conference-leading Toronto (41-17) on Monday night.