Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker returns – and shows exactly why the Charlotte Hornets missed him

Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard (12) drives against Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic (9) during the first half on Monday in Charlotte.
Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard (12) drives against Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic (9) during the first half on Monday in Charlotte. AP

Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker hates missing games. As teammate Marvin Williams said Monday morning, he’d play with a broken arm if the team would let him.

Walker missed the past two games, both losses, with a sore left shoulder. He demonstrated emphatically against the Orlando Magic his importance to this team with his 200th career game of 20 or more points. That was good for a 104-94 victory at Spectrum Center.

Walker finished with 29 points and went 14-of-14 from the foul line. He became the first player in Charlotte NBA history to reach 200 games of 20 or more points. Larry Johnson had 192 here.

The Hornets (9-13) ended a four-game losing streak. They have now beaten the Magic (10-15) nine consecutive times. This was the first of four consecutive home games; the Hornets play nine of the next 13 at Spectrum Center.

An encouraging sign for the Hornets: The second unit, which has been unreliable, sustained the lead early in the fourth quarter. Frank Kaminksy (14 points) and Jeremy Lamb (12) were both strong off the bench.

Three who mattered

Walker: His weaving dribbles through traffic, and the charge he drew in the last three minutes, said he wasn’t nursing that sore shoulder.

Evan Fournier: He hit 3s to keep the Magic in this game.

Kaminsky: He made five of 10 shots in the first half, when the Hornets were otherwise bad shooters (17-of-44 from the field).

Observations

▪  Hornets coach Steve Clifford missed the game because of an illness. That meant associate head coach Stephen Silas was in charge. Silas found out about 2 p.m. Clifford wouldn’t be able to coach Monday.

▪  Silas had some head-coaching experience from the 2011-12 Bobcats season, when he was the lead assistant to his father, Paul. With ownership’s permission, Stephen Silas coached several games late that season. Silas was in contention to coach the Houston Rockets two summers ago, before that job went to Mike D’Antoni.

▪  Hornets center Dwight Howard was called for his second flagrant foul this season for elbowing Magic guard Elfrid Payton in the first quarter.

▪  Walker played with padding on his shoulder. He was under no minutes restriction.

▪  Somewhat a rarity this season, no Hornets player missed this game with an injury.

Worth mentioning

▪  Nic Batum takes technicals for the Hornets this season, as he’s shooting 94 percent from the foul line. However, he entered Monday shooting only 37 percent from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range.

▪  Nice finish to the first quarter for Kaminsky: A spin move to the rim, followed by a stolen pass for a dunk.

▪  Howard passed Paul Silas for 20th in NBA history in career rebounds.

Report card

B+ OFFENSE: An excellent job of getting to the foul line, particularly by Walker and Batum.

B DEFENSE: A big part of the formula here is guarding without fouling. The Hornets generally stuck to that principle Monday.

B+ COACHING: Solid job by Silas, on short notice that he’d fill in for Clifford.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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