Stretching back to the start of the 2016-17 season, the Charlotte Hornets have lost 13 consecutive games decided by three points or less.
Is that flaw of design or execution?
Listening to Hornets players and coaches Monday morning, as they prepared for a home game against the New York Knicks, the answer is both.
Associate head coach Stephen Silas, filling in for an ailing Steve Clifford, acknowledged it’s predictable how the team leans on point guard Kemba Walker and center Dwight Howard in pick-and-rolls with a game on the line.
Walker, who earned a reputation as one of the NBA’s most clutch players, says he has to perform better in those game-deciding possessions.
"Pretty much everybody knows we’re going to go to the Kemba-Dwight pick-and-roll at the end of the game," Silas said after shootaround Monday. "We’ve had success with it, and we haven’t had success with it. We’re going to stay with it.
"The issue is having the sustainability not to be in those (all-or-nothing) possessions at the end of the game, so we don’t have to (always) go to that.
"That’s our bread-and-butter (play). Every team has a bread-and-butter down the stretch. We just haven’t made them, but I trust we will make those plays down the stretch."
The most recent example in a 10-19 season was Saturday’s 93-91 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Walker missed a layup in traffic with 10 seconds left. Frank Kaminsky then missed a tip-in and Jeremy Lamb missed a 3-pointer.
Walker led the NBA two seasons ago in what the league calls "late-and-close" scoring: Points in the last two minutes of a game with the margin four points or less. Walker totaled 83 such points in the 2015-16 season.
Since then, neither Walker nor his teammates have been clutch.
"We just can’t put the ball in the basket; that’s been the problem. We just can’t find a way to get over that hump when we’re down one possession," Walker said. "We get good looks, but the ball doesn’t drop."
Walker pointed the finger at himself above all.
"A lot of times we go to me, and I’ve got to make a play," Walker said.
"In the past, I’ve been great in those situations. Right now, it’s been more of a struggle. My teammates and my coaches count on me, so I have to be better in those late-game situations."
Bonnell: 704-358-5129: @rick_bonnell