Charlotte Hornets

5 close losses at center of Hornets’ early struggles

The Charlotte Hornets have lost 11 of 15 games this season, tying them for 12th among 15 Eastern Conference teams.

That’s far short of what the Hornets and their fans expected. The players keep saying it’s little things that can be corrected over time.

This much is certain: They keep losing the close ones, and that has been costly. Five of the 11 losses were decided on the last possession. There have been missed shots, turnovers, blown possessions.

Is there a pattern? Here’s a look at five last-minute losses that contribute mightily to a 4-11 record:

Nov. 1 vs. Memphis Grizzlies. Final score: Grizzlies 71, Hornets 69.

As the score indicates, this was a grind-it-out defensive game. Both teams relied heavily on low-post scorers in Charlotte’s Al Jefferson and Memphis’ Marc Gasol.

The Hornets led by a point with a minute, eight seconds left on two made free throws by small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The Grizzlies went to their pick-and-roll game between point guard Mike Conley and center Gasol. It produced a layup for Gasol and a foul by Charlotte’s Marvin Williams. Gasol made the free throw for a two-point lead with 58 seconds left.

The Hornets had two possessions in the remaining time. First, Jefferson was called for a traveling violation. Then the Hornets got back the ball off missed hook shot by Zach Randolph. Point guard Kemba Walker missed a 16-foot jump shot with 2.8 seconds left and the Grizzlies burned out the clock.

Nov. 2 vs. New York Knicks. Final score: Knicks 96, Hornets 93

New York’s Carmelo Anthony scored what became the winning basket on a 15-foot jump shot with a minute, 24 seconds remaining.

The Hornets had three possessions the rest of the game and failed to score. Turnovers were again central to the loss.

Lance Stephenson’s pass was intercepted by the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert with a minute left. Then Marvin Williams was called for a rare (and in this case controversial) five-second violation on an in-bounds pass. Replay raised a question whether Williams really got a full five seconds to in-bound the ball to Stephenson.

The Hornets had one more chance to tie or win the game, but Walker missed a 16-foot jump shot.

Anthony made one of two free throws with eight-tenths of a second left for the final margin.

Nov. 11 vs. Portland Trail Blazers. Final score: Blazers 102, Hornets 100

This was the first strong indication how vulnerable the Hornets are to late-game offensive rebounds. Key to the Blazers’ 23-point comeback were three second-chance baskets in the fourth quarter. The last of those – LaMarcus Aldridge’s rebound of teammate Steve Blake’s 3-pointer for a layup – gave the Blazers a four-point lead with 14 seconds left.

Charlotte’s Gary Neal layup with 10 seconds left reduced the deficit to 10. The Hornets got back the ball off a missed 3 by Damian Lillard with 3.5 seconds left. They did not have a full timeout to advance the ball to mid-court and never got off a shot in the remaining time.

Nov. 19 vs. Indiana Pacers. Final score: Pacers 88, Hornets 86

Once again an opponent offensive rebound bit them.

The game was tied at 86-86 with a minute, 28 seconds left on a free by Indiana’s Luis Scola. The Hornets had two scoreless possessions in the remaining time: Stephenson missed a 3-pointer and Williams missed a 19-foot jump shot.

The Pacers regained possession with 18 seconds left. Rodney Stuckey missed a 17-foot jump shot with a second left (Stephenson said he got a piece of the shot). But the Pacers’ Solomon Hill got inside rebounding position on Charlotte’s Gerald Henderson. He grabbed the offensive rebound and flipped it over his head and off the backboard, beating the buzzer with a winning put-back layup.

Nov. 23 vs. Miami Heat. Final score: Heat 94, Hornets 93

Miami’s Chris Bosh hit a 12-foot baseline fade-away with 31 seconds left that was well guarded by Cody Zeller.

The Hornets had two possessions in the remaining time. With 25 seconds left Walker missed a 6-foot runner. The Hornets got back the ball with 14 seconds left on Mario Chalmers’ turnover.

Walker missed a 13-foot jump shot with less than three seconds left and Al Jefferson’s attempt at a tip-in fell off the rim before the buzzer sounded.

Final tally:

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