CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Kemba Walker said he hasn’t felt this confident shooting the basketball since leading Connecticut to the national championship five years ago.
“I’m shooting it really well,” Walker said.
Walker turned in his fourth straight 30-point game, pouring in 35 to help the Charlotte Hornets hold off the New Orleans Pelicans 122-113 on Wednesday night for their fifth straight win. He has scored at least 20 points in 12 of the last 13 games and the Hornets are 11-2 during that span.
Walker shot 9 of 18 from the field and had five 3-pointers, along with four clutch free throws down the stretch. He also added seven assists and seven rebounds for Charlotte (35-28).
“He’s a different shooter,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s put so much work in and right now he’s in such a rhythm.”
Courtney Lee had 16 points and Nicolas Batum added 15 as all five Charlotte starters reached double figures in scoring midway through the third quarter.
“Kemba played great and made big plays for them,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “They’re playing great basketball. Steve’s done a great job of changing the way they play. They changed the way they usually play by spreading the floor and going small when Al (Jefferson) is not in there.”
Charlotte’s win overshadowed strong nights by Anthony Davis and Jure Holiday.
Davis had 40 points and 13 rebounds, while Holiday scored a season-high 38 points for injury-plagued Pelicans, who have lost five of their last six games.
The sizzling Walker came in averaging 30.8 points, 6.8 assists and 5.5 rebounds during the previous four games.
The 6-foot-1 point guard continued that momentum early on, scoring 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting in the first quarter as the Hornets opened a 39-28 lead. Walker hit three of his team’s eight 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
The Hornets led by 17 in the first half but the Pelicans battled back to cut the lead to one midway through the third quarter behind Holiday’s drives and Davis’ mid-range jumpers.
It was close from there out.
New Orleans finally pulled even with 3:17 left in the game when Toney Douglas knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing.
But the Pelicans could never get the lead.
Walker answered with an 18-foot jumper to give the Hornets the lead for good at 111-109. After Davis missed a 3-pointer, Walker hit four free throws to push the lead to six with 1:35 left in the game.
A short while later, Walker beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer from the top of the key to seal the win with 26 seconds left.
The Pelicans fell to 7-24 on the road this season.
“It’s disappointing,” Davis said. “We want to get the win. It’s tough but we didn’t play that well down the stretch. We played catch-up the whole night. Then when we did ... we missed chances.”
Pelicans: Davis notched his third game this season with 40-plus points and his 32nd double-double.
Hornets: Charlotte’s 39 points in the first quarter were a season high.
LEE’S BEST NIGHT
Lee’s 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc marked his first double-digit scoring outing since being acquired by the Hornets in a trade. “You like him now, wait three weeks from now,” Clifford said. “When you watch him play, he knows the game. He knows how to play.”
JOHNSON GETS HIS SHOT
With Norris Cole out with a lower back injury, New Orleans started D-League call-up Orlando Johnson at guard. Johnson had five points and two turnovers in 20 minutes.
“It’s just so unfair to give him any evaluation,” Davis said. “He had one shootaround for 40 minutes. We put him out there and he played hard and tried to compete.”
Walker reached another milestone, becoming just the third Hornets player to make 500 career 3-pointers. Only Dell Curry (929) and Glen Rice (508) have made more.
Pelicans: Visit Memphis on Friday night.
Hornets: Host Detroit on Friday night.