There were a lot of nautical analogies Monday in the Charlotte Hornets’ postgame locker room.
Cody Zeller said the Hornets were playing the second of back-to-back nights but the Los Angeles Clippers “were in the same boat.” Then Kemba Walker said of the six-game losing streak, “Everything isn’t going to be smooth sailing, especially playing elite teams.”
Here was the deal Monday: The Clippers were a speed boat that left the Hornets capsized in the second half. The home team was outscored 57-39 in the second half of a 113-92 loss.
At 4-11, the Hornets’ early season is starting out like a Gilligan’s Island cruise.
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They did some things right Monday, getting to the foul line 35 times and committing just five turnovers and 17 personal fouls. But none of that could negate the Clippers’ absurd advantage at the 3-point line.
The Clippers made 15 of 32 3-point attempts. The Hornets made 2 of 20. That 39-point difference explains quickly how they got run out of Time Warner Cable Arena by a very talented, but so far rather inconsistent, Clippers squad.
“They shot well and the next two teams coming in here (Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday and Golden State Warriors Friday) are going to shoot just as well or better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford warned. “I would doubt that anyone is playing a tougher schedule than we are now. We’re playing elite teams.”
They’re playing nothing like elite. Mediocre is starting to look like a short-term goal. Some of the Hornets’ problems are not of their making – injuries have cost them Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, P.J. Hairston and now Gary Neal (left shoulder contusion). But the guys who are healthy aren’t necessarily picking up the slack.
Shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the major acquisition of the off-season, played seven minutes in the second half. He finished with three points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Asked why Stephenson played so little in the second half, Clifford brought up ball movement.
“Tonight against a defense like that, the ball can’t stick,” Clifford said. “When Brian Roberts is out there with Kemba or Gary, that would be our best offensive team.”
This is not what you want to hear in regards to a player the Hornets are paying $18 million over this season and next.
The Clippers got some great play from their stars. Power forward Blake Griffin had a near-triple double of 22 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. He immediately got starting power forward Marvin Williams in foul trouble with two in the first five minutes.
Williams’ backup, Zeller, had a better night. He reached his career high with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field.
Searching for silver linings Monday, Clifford sounded a bit like Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera taking relief in how bad the NFC South is.
“We’re fortunate to be in the East,” where nine of 15 teams had sub-.500 records Monday morning, Clifford reminded.
“This league is humbling. We’re in that stretch right now.”