Good teams are in games like the one the Charlotte Hornets and Toronto Raptors played Friday at Spectrum Center.
Great teams win those games.
The Hornets established they’re good by winning six of their first seven this season. Friday, they established they’re still something short of great, falling behind by 16 at home to a Raptors team with more experience and probably more talent.
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Despite all the good work in the second half – an 18-0 run and a 10-point lead – they just couldn’t finish in the fourth quarter, giving up 34 points and 59 percent shooting to a team playing on the road.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker was terrific in the fourth, scoring eight points and adding three rebounds. But he wasn’t DeMar DeRozan, who carried the Raptors with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting.
It will be big if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can play Sunday in Cleveland, because you sure don’t want to face LeBron James without your best defensive option.
DeRozan finished with 34 points, making 14-of-26 shots from the field. He’s the NBA’s leading scorer this season and those numbers are his typical night. As Hornets coach Steve Clifford noted post-game, there are perhaps a handful of players so naturally gifted as a scorer, and you have to find some way to contain that.
Perhaps it would have made a difference had small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist been available, but he sat out the game with a lower-back strain. Certainly, Kidd-Gilchrist would have guarded DeRozan plenty, but rookie Treveon Graham actually did OK defensively against DeRozan, when you consider this was his first NBA start.
It will be big if Kidd-Gilchrist can play Sunday in Cleveland, because you sure don’t want to face LeBron James without your best defensive option.
Asked to dissect what happened Friday, Clifford expressed some concern about the Hornets’ defensive consistency and the up-and-down nature of Charlotte’s bench. He called his team completely disorganized defensively in the second quarter and I appreciate his frustration.
That’s when the Raptors (6-2) shot 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range. That Toronto posted 30 points that quarter, without DeRozan scoring any of them, speaks to how off its game Charlotte’s defense played.
I’ve teetered between admiring this group’s persistence and wondering if they understand how much jeopardy they can tolerate.
Being outscored by 13 that quarter, the Hornets trailed by as many as 16.
This has become a pattern; they managed to win four games so far where the opposing team had leads of 10 or more points. In thinking about that, I’ve teetered between admiring this group’s persistence and wondering if they understand how much jeopardy they can tolerate.
The second quarter unavoidably meant a lot of bench minutes, and that didn’t go well at all. Four reserves combined for 25 minutes in the second quarter and generated just two points.
The bench has had some good moments this early season. The reserves were essential to beating the Utah Jazz Wednesday.
But if Clifford can’t trust their consistency, it’s going to be a bumpy ride throughout the season.