What has Caused this Hornets Turnaround?

The Hornets have won five straight games. What caused the turnaround, and is it enough to make the playoffs?

Remember when the Hornets were 23-33 and I wrote an article titled "Embrace the tank." Well, a lot has changed since that article as the Hornets has won five straight and are four games out of the last playoff spot in the east. It would have been closer if Dwayne Wade didn't turn back the clock last night and hit a game winner, but these things happen. The playoff race in the east is brutal, and Charlotte still has a lot of work to do.

The Hornets have 21 games left and are four games back. That is a tough task. Not only do the Hornets need to keep winning, but they need someone to have a bad losing streak. Big picture wise maybe tanking is the best move, but it is clear the Hornets will fight until the very end. You might not agree with that, but the Hornets deserve credit for turning things around and putting a win streak together. This is the team that I and most thought we would see all season. So what caused this turnaround? 

The Bench/ Three-Point Shooting

Charlotte's bench has been the subject of significant scrutiny for the past two seasons and rightfully so. They have stunk this season, until after the all-star break they have figured it out. No one has turned it around more than Frank Kaminsky. Frank has found his stroke from deep during the win streak shooting 60 percent from deep, the previous month he was only shooting 30 percent from deep. His scoring and rebounding are about the same, but since he is hitting his threes, he is scoring more efficiently. His three-point shooting has been contagious as Charlotte has been on fire from deep as of late. Another big part of the turnaround.

MCW still can't make a shot, but his passing and especially his defense have been a big part of the turnaround. He is 19th among all point guards in defensive RPM. Graham has been steady as always playing good defense and hitting five from nine from deep. With MKG hurting his hamstring last night, Graham will likely start, and he will need to let it fly. He can't match MKG's defense, rebounding, and tenacity, so he needs to be hitting his threes. Then there is Jeremy Lamb who has been stellar as of late. He was the hero of the win at Orlando right before the break and has been great ever since. In the five games, he is averaging 13 points on 51 percent shooting from the field, 44 percent from three and 4.4 assists per game. Again him and Kaminsky hitting threes are huge. 

The bad news of last nights win was the injuries to MKG and Cody Zeller. Zellers return has been enormous, he is our glue guy, and things just run smoothly when he is in the game. He has been steady with 6.2 points on 63 percent shooting and 4.8 rebounds per game. His screening and defense are also excellent; Charlotte cannot afford to lose him for serious time. If he missed tonight's game in Boston, Willy Hernagomez needs to be ready to step up. 

Charlotte is now ninth in the league in three-point percentage after the recent uptick at 36.9 percent. The problem is Charlotte is only 21st in attempts. Keep letting it fly, boys! You know who should keep letting it fly? Marvin Williams. He is shooting 50 percent from deep in the last five games on 5.2 attempts per game. He was shooting an excellent 44 percent before but on only 3.8 attempts. He should have the ultimate green light and like Charlotte looking for him early in games. 

Then there is the captain! Kemba has been sensational as of late. His three-point attempts are about the same; he is just making them now. Kemba is shooting 48 percent from deep during the win streak. He is averaging 22.8 points on 51 percent shooting and 4.2 assists per game. Kemba has been doing this all season, the only thing new is the three-point shooting, let's hope it continues. 

The bench and three-point shooting have been huge, but they are not the only reasons for the turnaround. 

Dwight/Defense and Batum Passing

Let's start with Batum the subject of much criticism this season and rightfully so. He has stunk for most of it. Batum's field goal percentage is about the same as it has been all season. For the season he is averaging 11.9 points on 41 percent shooting from the field and 32 percent from three. During the five-game win streak, he is averaging 11.4 points on 42 percent shooting. The difference is he is hitting 41 percent of his threes on 5.8 attempts per game, up from 32 percent on 4.7 attempts. That has helped his efficiency, but he has also been better on defense as of late and more importantly, his passing has been elite. Last night he had 12 assists and is averaging 8.6 assists in the past five games. 

His passing was tremendous last night, but the hero of last night was Dwight Howard. At halftime, he said one his ribs popped out, but he came back and played anyway and dominated the second half. During the streak, Dwight has been more efficient from the field, the free throw line and had even cut his turnovers down. He is averaging 17.8 points, 12.2 rebounds on 62 percent shooting from the field and 61 percent from the line. His turnovers are down from 2.8 to two a game. Before the streak, he was only scoring 15.8 points on 54 percent shooting and 55 percent shooting from the line. Hopefully, he plays tonight, if he does he needs to keep hitting his free throws at a 60 percent clip and the turnovers down. 

The offense and the three-point shooting have been the story, but the defense has improved as well. For the season Charlotte was giving up 106 points per game, during the win streak it has only been 100 points per game. Dwight's rim protection and Batum's perimeter defense have been a big part of it.

Will it be enough?

Part of this streak is simply beating bad times. Brooklyn, Orlando, Chicago are all lottery bound and Detroit probably is as well. The only win against a playoff team was the win at Washington. The real test is about to come. Charlotte's next three games are at Boston, at Philadelphia, and at Toronto. Zeller and MKG can miss one or all three of those games as well. The Hornets need to win at least one of these games. To make the playoffs Charlotte probably has to be at least 41-41. So that means going 13-8 down the stretch. Say we go 1-2 in this gauntlet that brings the Hornets record to 29-35 and Charlotte would have to be 12-6 down the stretch.

That is why Charlotte still only has a 13 percent shot of making the playoffs and are most likely to finish 39-43. After the three-game stretch the schedule is not bad, but remember Charlotte needs someone to fall off a cliff. The prime suspect is Indiana, not because of their talent, but because they have the toughest remaining schedule left in the league. Charlotte needs them to have a four-game losing streak to catch up. If the Hawks can upset them tonight that would be enormous. This turnaround has been impressive, but my guess is it will be a too little too late, and Charlotte will unfortunately only hurt their draft position. Still, give them credit this is impressive and if they do pull it off it will be one of the biggest turnarounds ever. 

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