I could have dictated what was about to come out of coach Steve Clifford’s mouth post-game, as could most anyone who covers the Charlotte Hornets more than occasionally.
Clifford was going to talk about turnovers. Then, talk about turnovers. Then, talk some more about turnovers.
Clifford is all about playing a clean game. The trademarks of his Hornets teams have been low turnovers, low fouls and get-back-in-transition defense.
Not Thursday, not by a long shot. The Hornets committed a season-high 22 turnovers, three more than in any previous game this season. The Houston Rockets converted those Hornets giveaways into 27 points.
Never miss a local story.
So it wasn’t hard to see where this was headed. The Rockets, despite trailing by four at halftime, won easily, 107-95 at Spectrum Center.
Steve Clifford said his team should have led by a dozen or more points at halftime, and the reason that didn’t happen was 13 first-half turnovers.
Clifford made a good point when he said often a coach is not sure just what happened without reviewing the video. This was the telling exception. As Clifford said, turnovers were factors 1, 2 and 3 in why they wasted an otherwise solid performance against one of the NBA’s better teams.
The Hornets led 54-50 at halftime, having made 51 percent from the field in the first half. Clifford said his team should have led by a dozen or more points at halftime, and the reason that didn’t happen was 13 first-half turnovers.
Five of those were committed by point guard Kemba Walker, trying to match the offensive output of NBA Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden. Walker finished with a season-worst six turnovers.
Harden outdid Walker, finishing with nine turnovers (astoundingly his season high is 12), but he made up for those mistakes by finishing with 30 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
"He’s gonna get his," Clifford said of the inevitability of Harden filling a box score this season.
Thursday was an outlier for the Hornets. It was also a burning example ...
Then, Clifford held two fingers a quarter-inch apart, signifying how small the 24-29 Hornets’ margin for error is this season.
Overall for the season, the Hornets have committed the second-fewest turnovers in the NBA and the fewest fouls. By and large, they stick to the script, which I call the "musts" of playing Clifford ball.
So, Thursday was an outlier. It was also a burning example; get off script and this team goes straight down the drain.