Ugly ending, but silver linings in Charlotte

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Well that didn’t go as planned. The Charlotte Hornets provided a super-sized helping of excitement during this brief playoff run, but ultimately the experience of Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat was the deciding factor that led to Charlotte’s demise.

After a roller coaster ride through the initial six games of the series, the Hornets’ were derailed from the track completely in game seven. It got ugly early, too. The Heat led by eleven after the first quarter and never looked back, skating to a 33-point victory that looked more comfortable than a pair of fur-lined L.L. Bean slippers. Charlotte starters Frank Kaminsky and Kemba Walker combined to shoot an appalling 6-for-31 from the field, as the visiting team never appeared to match the Heat’s intensity on either end of the floor.

There are plenty of other horrific stats that were produced from the South Beach extermination of the Hornets, but dwelling on those sad digits is a disservice to the huge step Steve Clifford and his team took this year. Playing the majority of the season without integral young swingman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the Hornets skipped the excuses and, instead, played a brilliant brand of team basketball. As the Hornets enter the offseason, their arrow is pointing up. Here are some more reasons to keep the faith in Buzz City.

1. Charlotte finished the season ranked in the top ten in offensive and defensive efficiency. They’ve always played defense well under Coach Clifford (ranked 9th in 2014-15), but their improvement on offense without sacrificing anything on defense has been impressive.

2. The Hornets continued to improve throughout the year, posting the league’s third best record after the All-Star break at 21-8.

3.Kemba Walker and the Hornets have consistently shown the ability to play well under pressure, with an undefeated 5-0 record in overtime games this season.

4. Speaking of Kemba, the fifth-year floor general is coming off his best season yet, posting career-highs in field goal percentage, three-point percentage, free throw percentage and rebounds. Oh, and the Hornets have him under contract until the summer of 2019.

5.Michael Jordan and general manager Rich Cho will have some substantial decisions to make this offseason involving several members of their exciting core. Jeremy Lin, Nicolas Batum, Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson are all expected to enter free agency this summer. Bleacher Report conducted a comprehensive examination of Charlotte's imminent free agency situation.

6. In a league where Carlos Boozer once turned his back on a handshake agreement with former Cavs owner Gordon Gund, talk is obviously cheap. But it does indeed sound like these Hornets sincerely enjoy playing together, and expect to stick around for another run next year.

7. “I definitely want to play with these guys and for this coach,” Jeremy Lin stated after the game. “We need to move on right away and get better,” said Nic Batum. And finally, Marvin Williams addressing his future: “There’s no question. I want to return. I’ll let it be known right now. This is the most fun I’ve had in a season”.

8. The Hornets have a rock solid head coach in Steve Clifford, a group of exciting young players who appear to have terrific chemistry and the 22nd pick in this summer’s NBA draft. The future remains promising in Charlotte.

9. In other news, Hornets assistant coach Patrick Ewingwill reportedly interview for the Sacramento Kings head coaching gig this week. Ewing hasn’t held a head coaching position, but has served as a prominent assistant in both Charlotte and Orlando. Sacramento has shuffled through eight different head coaches since firing Rick Adelman in 2006.

Christopher Kreider | @krydr1