Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford didn’t mind that his team lost to the New Orleans Pelicans, a team with more talent than its 4-10 record suggests.
It’s how the Hornets lost and why they lost that riled Clifford post-game.
To summarize, they got sloppy and undisciplined. The team that commits the fewest turnovers in the NBA committed 15 Saturday. The team that is typically so strong in transition defense allowed 23 fast-break points. The team that has been solid this season in closing out on perimeter shooters gave up 14 3-pointers.
So, if there’s a lesson in this 121-116 overtime loss, it’s that – despite an 8-4 record – the Hornets still aren’t a team so dominant that they can function without organization and purpose.
The Hornets should have won this one. They were up 14 on a team that has been beaten down this early season by injuries and circumstance. They are just getting back point guard Jrue Holiday, who missed the first month of the season to care for his wife, who delivered the couple’s first child while suffering from a benign brain tumor.
The Pelicans have plenty of flaws, but they also have one of the NBA’s five best players in Anthony Davis. You know, the guy the then-Bobcats were supposed to get as a consolation prize for a 7-59 season, only to fall to the second pick in the draft lottery.
Despite an 8-4 record – the Hornets still aren’t a team so dominant that they can function without organization and purpose.
Davis was his magnificent self Saturday, finishing with 38 points and 16 rebounds. He made big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter and overtime, while the Hornets wilted under the pressure of a tight game.
The Hornets went 2-of-9 from the field in the extra five minutes. Meanwhile, Davis made four of his five attempts in OT for the victory.
It never should have gotten to overtime. The Hornets led 88-74 in the first minute of the fourth quarter on Frank Kaminsky’s 3-pointer. That should have been enough.
But every time the Hornets were seemingly pulling away, they’d commit a most inopportune turnover, often the kind that sent the Pelicans into fast-break mode. Either that or a Hornet would commit a foul just as the Pelicans were about to give up possession.
Now, the Hornets turn to a Thanksgiving week of four games in six nights. And they look a bit more vulnerable after this result.
The Hornets commit the fifth-fewest fouls in the NBA this season, but you’d never know that from the 25 free throws the Pelicans took.
It’s a shame, because sweeping games on back-to-back nights would have been impressive, and confirm the traction this team has generated.
Kemba Walker extended his streak of games of 20 or more points to 11. Marco Belinelli had by far his best game as a Hornet, coming off the bench for 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
But all that became trivial due to the turnovers, fouls and mental errors. Now, they turn to a Thanksgiving week of four games in six nights. And they look a bit more vulnerable after this result.