Statistically for the season, the Charlotte Hornets rank among the top defensive rebounding teams in the NBA.
However, the recent trend line says otherwise.
The Hornets have allowed 10 or more offensive rebounds in nine of their past 12 games after holding opponents below 10 offensive boards in their first six games.
The Hornets were badly outrebounded in Wednesday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors (53-41), and coach Steve Clifford said until that improves the team will suffer.
“The one thing that is disappointing, and that has to change, is you can’t pick and choose when to be physical,” Clifford said. “We got beat up again on the glass. ... We have to have someone who is willing to hit people in there.
“That would have been a four- or five-point game (instead of a 17-point blowout) if we were more physical in the first half.”
There are injuries contributing to this problem: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out, likely for the season, following shoulder surgery and he is among the top rebounding small forwards in the NBA. Center Al Jefferson, a strong defensive rebounder, will miss three weeks with a left calf strain.
However, Clifford sees this problem as correctable. The Hornets were a strong defensive rebounding team each of his previous two seasons in Charlotte, and were so good in this season’s first six games they still rank third in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage.
“Everybody has to be willing to hit somebody and hold their man out and go get the ball,” Clifford said. “If we get our hand on the ball, it has to be our ball.”
The Hornets’ two centers in Jefferson’s absence – Cody Zeller and Spencer Hawes – combined for only eight rebounds against the Warriors. Shooting guard Nic Batum was the Hornets’ top rebounder with eight, and forward Marvin Williams and reserve point guard Brian Roberts each added six.
On those occasions recently when the Hornets rebounded well, it’s involved the backcourt contributing. Point guards Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker combined for 16 rebounds in a Nov. 18 win against the Brooklyn Nets.
“We’re smaller now,” Batum said of Jefferson’s injury. “I said a couple of weeks ago the bigs can’t do it by themselves. Us smaller guys have to go back and help them. A guy like myself or Jeremy Lamb or Kemba or P.J. (Hairston) – we have to do a better job of rebounding the ball.”
Williams, who plays primarily power forward this season, leads the Hornets in rebounding at 6.9 per game. He has noticed the regression since the Hornets’ first six games.
“It hurt us; no doubt about it,” Williams said of the matchup with the Warriors. “They’re so good offensively, you want to limit them to one shot (per possession). When they’re getting two or three cracks at it, you’ll never come back because they have so many guys who can score.
“We have to do better, particularly without Big Al.”