December 18, 2014

Kemba Walker's fifth season with the Charlotte Hornets stands to be the most successful on both an individual and team level in terms of regular-season accomplishments.

What gnaws at him most, though, is that they've made only one postseason appearance during his tenure and still haven't experienced a playoff win.

Only a dramatic collapse over the final nine games would keep Charlotte having a chance to realize that this season, but Walker isn't taking anything for granted as the Hornets prepare to visit the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night.

Walker's 21.0 points per game would set a new career high, as would his field-goal percentage of 43.0 that is an impressive increase from the 38.5 percent he shot last season as Charlotte (42-31) missed the playoffs.

The Hornets ranked last in the league with a 31.8 3-point percentage in 2014-15 but have been one of the league's best from deep this season at 36.3 percent, in part because Walker is shooting more than seven percent better. He's hit 9 of 15 from 3 over his last two and finished with 18 points in Saturday's 115-91 win over Milwaukee.

Charlotte hasn't lost back-to-back games since late January, an awfully good sign heading into the season's final weeks for a franchise that hasn't won a playoff game since 2002.

"We have guys who have chips on their shoulders and guys who have a lot to prove," Walker said. "It's been two years since we've been (to the playoffs) and it's special. We don't get to the playoffs as often as we would like, so hopefully we can get there and start a new trend."

He mentioned players like Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams, who scored 25 and 21 points, respectively, against the Bucks. The Hornets improved to 11-5 on the road since Jan. 22 and have an excellent chance to surpass the 44 wins of the 2009-10 team that are the most since Charlotte was given a second franchise.

Walker scored 30 points in a 119-99 win at Philadelphia on March 2 after the Hornets won the first meeting 113-88 on Nov. 20.

"We're still battling to clinch a spot in the playoffs," Walker said. "We just want to keep our rhythm going and keep playing well with each other."

The 76ers (9-65) lost the second and third stops on their four-game trip by a total of four points, but fell 117-105 at Golden State in Sunday's finale to extend their latest losing streak to nine.

Carl Landry scored 22 points and Ish Smith added 20, but Jerami Grant left early with a right knee and quad contusion, leaving his status for this contest unclear. Coach Brett Brown also isn't sure if Nerlens Noel will miss a fourth straight game with a knee contusion.

Elton Brand, who is averaging 4.0 points in 11 games since signing as a free agent Jan. 4, had to play a season-high 16-plus minutes and scored 10 points while hitting 5 of 6 from the field.

"We did take our hits recently, most recently with Jerami," Brown said. "We'll have to try and find a way to get back on that recovery path over the next few days."

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