Last season the Charlotte Bobcats were competitive because they were a great defensive rebounding team.
Friday the Charlotte Hornets weren’t great on the defensive boards. They weren’t good on the defensive boards. They were pretty awful on the defensive boards.
“If we’re not going to be able to rebound well, we’re not going to win,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said after a 106-101 home loss to the Golden State Warriors. “It doesn’t matter how well you play if you get tattooed” on the boards.
The Warriors were tattoo artists all game: They finished with 16 offensive rebounds resulting in 18 second-chance points. That 18-7 advantage in points off offensive rebounds was enough on a night when the Warriors (13-2) were uncharacteristically poor shooters.
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Golden State’s backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – both potential All-Stars this season – shot a combined 16-of-42 from the field Friday. That was the opening the Hornets needed to try to end this losing streak which now stands at eight games. The Hornets led by as many as 10 points in the second half, but all the Warriors’ putbacks decided this game.
The Hornets are now 4-13 heading into a Saturday road game against the Atlanta Hawks. Clifford is clearly frustrated – he took a single question on the game, talking extensively about his team’s faulty rebounding – and then ended his press conference on that one question.
“It’s an effort area. It’s a physicality area,” Clifford said about his team’s rebounding. “You’ve got to make sure if you don’t get it that (the opponent you are blocking out) doesn’t get it.”
This is not a new area of concern. The Hornets lost close road games to the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers by giving up key offensive rebounds.
Forwards Marreese Speights and Harrison Barnes had four offensive rebounds each for the Warriors. That Speights was key to this advantage was appropriate – he scored the first 16 of the Warriors’ 32 fourth-quarter points.
Speights (27 points) tied the game at 86-86 with just over six minutes left on a layup. He gave the Warriors their first lead of the second half at 88-86 on a reverse layup. The Hornets never led again, falling behind by as many as seven points.
This was not the efficient night Curry usually has in his annual return to his hometown of Charlotte. He made nine of 20 shots from the field and one of 10 from 3-point range. He had six assists but also four turnovers.
Yet Curry (26 points) iced this game with four seconds left, hitting two free throws for a five-point lead.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t go in,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “But Steph kept playing.”
The Hornets had some solid efforts Friday: Cody Zeller, making his first start this season (Marvin Williams was out with a strained shoulder), finished with 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds. Reserve guard Brian Roberts followed up a career-high 24 points against the Portland Trail Blazers with 20 points off 8-of-14 shooting Friday.
But the defensive rebounding (Bobcats were best in the NBA last season in defensive-rebounding percentage) has to bump up for this team to recover.
“Both teams are still very small,” guard Gerald Henderson said of last season’s Bobcats and this season’s Hornets. “Rebounding is about effort, checking your man and going and getting the ball. A team like us, if we want to be good, we have to do that. It killed us tonight.”