How bad was the Charlotte Hornets’ performance Monday?
I could picture parents warning disobedient children, “Finish that homework NOW, or you’ll have to watch the fourth quarter!”
The first half wasn’t just the worst the Hornets have played this season, it’s the worst they have played in a long time. The Grizzlies scored 69 points and shot 58 percent from the field and 63 percent from 3-point range. It was as if the term “pick-and-roll” was a foreign concept, the way Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were using the Hornets nearly every possession.
That made whatever good the Hornets did in the second half – they outscored Memphis 26-15 in the third quarter – moot. The best the Hornets could do was trim the deficit to nine before inevitably falling 105-90.
This was the second consecutive loss after the Hornets fell in overtime Saturday to the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s just two games, but coach Steve Clifford sees a trend – a lack of readiness and focus – that his team can’t afford to become a habit.
Shooting guard Nic Batum talked after shootaround Monday morning about the sense of regret over the Pelicans loss. He said they blew that one and should have won, and he’s certainly correct in both observations. The Hornets led by 14 early in the fourth quarter in New Orleans, then threw that game away with bad turnovers and fouls.
Monday, they looked sloppier still. You aren’t going to win many games missing 12 of 33 free throws, as the Hornets did. You’re not going to win many games allowing a quality opponent (the Grizzlies are 9-5) to shoot 12-of-26 from 3-point range, either.
Clifford said he’s seen a noteworthy regression in performance since the Hornets beat the Atlanta Hawks on Friday at Spectrum Center. He said there are but a handful of NBA teams so talented that they don’t have to improve somewhat steadily throughout the season to reach their potential.
Clearly, the 8-5 Hornets aren’t such an elite team.
Whether they won or lost, Clifford for the most part saw a group that works hard in practice and endeavored to learn from its mistakes. They might not have beaten the Cleveland Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors, but they competed and performed.
Monday, the players looked worn down, if not disinterested. They had a day off Sunday, but it certainly didn’t have the effect of recharging them.
The problem right now is there isn’t a lot the Hornets will get out of practice in a span of eight games in 12 days. Tuesday is the only day this week they can practice, and Clifford acknowledged that running contact drills, with so many games upcoming and so many players hurt, would be counterproductive.
The injury list keeps growing. Clifford said power forward Frank Kaminsky, who matched a career high Monday with 23 points off the bench, suffered a sprained left ankle. The severity of that injury is unknown, but the ailments are piling up. Four Hornets – Cody Zeller, Jeremy Lamb, Treveon Graham and Christian Wood – were unavailable to play.
So practice Tuesday will be mostly about video study.
That should be quite a horror film. Hopefully, no one covers his eyes because there’s plenty to note and correct.