Steve Clifford offered his final defense of his team’s offense the day of his Hornets’ Game 2 against the Miami Heat.
Clifford said after the 123-91 Game 1 loss that he wasn’t going to have a kneejerk reaction to his team’s struggles in the paint. He reiterated that stance Wednesday morning when asked if he would make any changes to the lineup, which inherently means using more Al Jefferson in place of Cody Zeller against Hassan Whiteside.
“Here’s the thing: everyone keeps asking me about playing Al more,” Clifford began. “Our offense was really good. If you look at 91 points you’re totally missing what happened. It was a low-possession game. We were 1.07 points per possession. That’d be like third-best in the league. It’s not just OK; it’s really good.
“Our offense isn’t the problem at all. He played well offensively. He (Jefferson) could get a bigger role, but to just…it makes no sense. If you really had no life and sat there and watched the game for two days over and over, it makes no sense to me whatsoever.
“We’ve played well for 82 games a certain way. Could we change something as it goes on if it makes sense? Yeah. But not just so that I can say I’m playing Joe Coach and we’re going to try something different.”
So, no, he won’t be starting Jefferson over Zeller Wednesday night to get a better offensive matchup. Clifford believes Zeller in the starting five gives Charlotte its best starting five on both ends.
The Hornets, of course, have to get better on the defensive end. Clifford said the Heat’s 1.42 points per possession in Game 1 were the most in an NBA game all season long.
“We’re a top-ten defensive team and we got rocked. We weren’t just bad—rocked,” Clifford said. “And they were great and we were terrible. And they’re very tough to guard, but from a coverage standpoint it was as bad as we were all year and they took full advantage of everything. They’re going to get that ball in the paint, and if you can’t stop them then you’re not going to beat them. So that’s it.”