The Charlotte Hornets have been beaten five times this season, but Saturday was the first time they lost.
Lost, as in squander an opportunity. Lost, as in need to take a hard look at their own culpability.
The New Orleans Pelicans were low-hanging fruit. They’d played Friday night, a home loss to the Toronto Raptors, while the Hornets were off. They were without starting point guard Lonzo Ball (adductor muscle strain). The Pelicans entered this game 1-7, having allowed the most points in the NBA by far (124 per game).
Instead of accepting this present, the Hornets committed 22 turnovers. They also shot just 8-of-25 in the fourth quarter, allowing the Pelicans to fly out with a 115-110 victory.
The Hornets are 4-5, certainly a better record than most anticipated. They have been competitive because every time they’ve not been blown out, they exploited opportunities against similarly limited teams.
Until Saturday. Their coach sounded frustrated by that, repeating the phrase “lack of urgency” several times post-game.
“It just takes attention to detail, physicality and urgency to get the ball,” Borrego said of what was lacking.
“We have to learn from this,” Borrego added. “See what kind of urgency we have (Sunday) night and see who brings it.”
The Hornets flew to Philadelphia post-game for a Sunday night game with the 76ers, a team that has owned them of late. Play as sloppy and lackadaisical as the Hornets did Saturday and the Sixers could humiliate them.
The 22 Charlotte turnovers were a season high, but that doesn’t make that number an outlier. This was the sixth time in the first nine games that the Hornets committed 19 or more.
The Hornets went several seasons as one of the lowest-turnover teams in the NBA. It was inevitable that would change this season with All-NBA point guard Kemba Walker gone and so many new and young players in the rotation.
However, it shouldn’t be this bad. Charlotte has to shoot exceptionally to survive throwing away that many possessions, not to mention how often those giveaways lead to easy baskets for opponents.
“We’ll get better,” veteran forward Marvin Williams said. “We have a lot of guys who can make plays. Coach is putting a lot of trust in different guys. When you do that, your turnovers are going to go up.”
The mistakes wasted another big night in point guard Devonte Graham’s continuing rise. He had the first 20-10 game of his career (24 points, 10 assists and five rebounds) and his second double-double.
Impressive as he’s been — that’s an average of 26 points and eight assists for Graham’s last three games — the joy was robbed with how the Hornets beat themselves.
“We talk about that all the time — gotta limit the turnovers,” Graham said. “We did that last couple of games, but this game we were lazy with the ball.”
Over 82 games, every NBA team has lazy spells. Some have the wealth of talent to win anyway.
That’s sure not these Hornets.