3. Walker stymied by late defensive adjustment; can he adjust?
Kemba Walker scored 12 straight points for the Charlotte Hornets in the fourth quarter, with the last of them coming on his second straight pull-up 3-pointer above the break to give the Hornets a 104-96 lead with 3:20 left in regulation.
At that point, Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson pulled out the defensive playbook and basically went to a box-and-one on Walker the rest of the way, primarily using Spencer Dinwiddie to shadow the Charlotte All-Star.
But Rodions Kurucs, Joe Harris and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson also got turns in the matchup and while the defensive approach opened up the middle of the floor and made the Nets vulnerable to corner 3s after penetration into the paint, Walker scored just four points on 1-of-5 shooting over the final 13:19 of the game.
Brooklyn forced the ball out of Walker’s hands as much as possible and left the Hornets to use Tony Parker or Malik Monk to run their offense.
It was Monk’s crucial turnover when trying to get by Kurucs off the dribble that led to Joe Harris’ steal-and-score with 3.4 seconds left in the second overtime, a bucket that decided the game.
Walker commented afterward that it was a defensive approach he’s not seen in a long time. per The Associated Press:
"“I don’t know of anyone else in this league that’s being guarded the way they guarded me. It was like a box-and-one. I haven’t seen that since I was in college. “It was pretty crazy, but I guess that’s what teams are going to do, so I’ve just got to keep trusting in my teammates to make plays.”"
Walker finished the night with 35 points while Jeremy Lamb added 31. Brooklyn had its own high-powered duo in Dinwiddie and Harris, who combined for 64 points.
With a day to contemplate and analyze the Nets’ strategy in guarding Walker to close out the game, Charlotte will almost certainly adjust, which means Brooklyn’s adjustment to the Charlotte adjustment will be the next chess move.