If the Charlotte Hornets plan to change the result anytime soon, they had better start changing their methods.
A good place to start, after a 114-87 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, would be 3-point defense.
For all the flaws the 6-17 Hornets demonstrated in this one – deficient rebounding, poor shooting, giving up layups – the worst one had to be 3-point defense. The 10-12 Nets made 16 of 23 3s to lead by as many as 34 points.
And while the Nets’ long-range shooting was extreme, it’s not as if that’s an anomaly for the Hornets. Over their last six games Hornets opponents have made 62 of 132 3-point attempts (47 percent). In that same span, the Hornets have made 28 of 109 3-pointers (27 percent).
The off-season was spent shopping for extra shooters. The three free-agent signings – Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams and Brian Roberts – shot 5-of-10 from 3 Friday, so that wasn’t so bad.
But the 3-point defense was nearly non-existent Saturday.
“The way our defense is set up, we don’t want anyone getting into the paint,” shooting guard Gerald Henderson said of giving up 3s. “If you do get beaten, then we want to have another man there (to help) at all times.
“It does open up kick-outs and throw-back passes. This is not a new defense and teams have succeeded with it before. None of our rules have changed from last year.”
No, but coach Steve Clifford has shaded back-and-forth in defensive emphasis this season. Clifford said post-game that over the season’s first 10 games he asked for less help inside from the perimeter players. He didn’t like those results, so he returned to the “stop layups and dunks at all cost” imperative.
“Last year we were an elite defensive team (overall), but a poor 3-point defensive team,” Clifford said of allowing 2013-14 opponents to shoot 37 percent from the arc – 24th among 30 NBA teams. “We’ve gone back to protecting the paint.
“If we’re going to be good defensively, then we can’t be middle-of-the-road at everything. You’ve got to be good at something.”
This was a night when the Hornets weren’t good at much of anything. They were coming off a double-overtime road loss Friday to the Memphis Grizzlies, which obviously didn’t help their readiness (though the Nets played Friday, too.)
It looked like there was big potential Saturday for Hornets center Al Jefferson to have a huge night, since the Nets were missing big men Brook Lopez and Kevin Garnett.
Instead Jefferson had his second-lowest scoring game this season, finishing with eight points on 4-of-10 shooting.
The Nets jumped out to an 18-point first-half lead with small forward Joe Johnson scoring 17 of his 22 points before halftime. Jefferson finished the first half with six points and four rebounds and played only eight minutes in the second half.
“He played 45 minutes last night,” Clifford said of Jefferson. “For his career, he’s averaged 33. I bumped that up to 39” in last season’s playoff chase.
“That was a high-intensity game (in Memphis), and we got home at 2:30 a.m.”
It doesn’t get any easier from here: The Hornets have a road game Monday against the East-contending Cleveland Cavaliers, the first of four games in six nights.