Think of the Washington Wizards as the catalyst of the Charlotte Hornets’ demise Monday rather than the cause.
Yes, the Wizards got the victory, 95-69 at Time Warner Cable Arena, ending the Hornets’ five-game winning streak. But the greatest single factor in this becoming a second-half blowout was the schedule.
This was the eighth game in 13 nights for the Hornets and the second game in as many days. They looked every bit the worn-out group.
“We played a tired game,” coach Steve Clifford said. “We never found the energy level we needed to make a real run at the game.”
Best indicator of this: The Hornets are typically at or near the top of NBA statistics in fewest points allowed in the lane. For the second game in a row, they were horrible in that regard.
They managed to win Sunday at Detroit despite allowing 60 points in the paint. Monday, with that much more energy sapped from them, the Hornets gave up 54 points in the paint.
Granted, the Pistons and Wizards are above average at getting up shots near the rim. Detroit has post-up options in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who are tough to contain.
The Wizards have one of the great drivers in the NBA in point guard John Wall, and big men in Marcin Gortat and Nene who know how to present themselves as targets for Wall’s interior passing.
That doesn’t totally explain away how easily the Pistons and Wizards attacked what has been a prominent – and necessary – strength of the Hornets this season.
“We need energy,” Clifford said. “We’re not the type of team that can be low-energy to start, then hit six 3s” to get back into a game.
Certainly they weren’t that team Monday: The Hornets shot 4-of-22 from 3-point range. They aren’t a superior 3-point shooting team, but those numbers imply tired legs.
Point guard Mo Williams, who entered this game shooting 41 percent from 3-point range as a Hornet, was 1-of-10 from long range. His backup, Brian Roberts, was 0-of-5 from outside the arc.
With all that in mind, it was rather surprising they trailed by only 10 at halftime (after a 7-0 run to finish the second quarter).
The fatigue really caught up to them in the second half, though: The Hornets shot 8-of-35 from the field, generating 23 second-half points.
Clifford is philosophically opposed to giving up on a game before it is literally beyond hope. With 41/2 minutes left he sent in the end of the bench, down 20.
The Hornets will have Tuesday off from practice, then regroup for Wednesday’s home game against the Sacramento Kings.
Clifford said the only players who seemed to have much energy were reserves Lance Stephenson and Jason Maxiell.
Maxiell played in the second half after starting power forward Cody Zeller sprained his right shoulder in the first and missed the rest of the game.
Stephenson finished with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, five assists and three rebounds.
“Just focus on defense and stay within the team and make great decisions to help the team win,” Stephenson said of his approach.
“I’m just finding my groove. I’m playing with the team and starting to figure out my teammates. Everything has come easy for me (of late), being in attack mode and not worrying about missing shots.”