After this one the coach called himself out.
“You have to give a professional effort. That was not a professional effort, and that’s my responsibility,” Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said after his team trailed by as many as 44 points in a 105-75 loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
“Effort night in and night out is always going to be the responsibility of the head coach and the best players. The basic nightly intensity of your team comes down to that, and I’m the person most responsible.
“That is obviously unacceptable – for the franchise to the fans to ever play a game with that little intensity.”
They were gruesome. The Hornets have now lost nine in a row, but none of those previous losses portended this calamity. They trailed 38-17 41/2 minutes into the second quarter, having missed their first seven shots of the period.
But this was about much more than missed jump shots. They demonstrated little or no ability to guard in the post. The Hawks outscored the Hornets in the lane 26-8 in the first half and led 64-28 at halftime.
The Hawks broke a two-game losing streak to the Bobcats/Hornets, although they have mostly dominated this series. Prior to those two losses, the Hawks had won 11 in a row over the Bobcats.
The Hornets don’t play again until Wednesday at home against the Chicago Bulls. Clifford had said pre-game his top priority for Monday and Tuesday practice was addressing the poor post defense.
“Some of it is individual, some of it is determination and some is technique,” Clifford said of a defense that allowed the Hawks 40 points in the paint.
“Look, we’re small. We’ll have to do some things that we need to get better at to combat that. You can do it with all-out double-teams, fake double-teams – just different schemes that we have in, but we need to get better at it.”
Part of the problem this early season has been the crowded schedule. Saturday was their 18th game in the season’s first 32 days. That has made it difficult to practice more than occasionally and even then there’s only so much energy you can commit to practice when you might be playing five games in seven nights, as they just did.
“You don’t want to make that an excuse – but this has been tough: Not only the timing of the games but who we’ve played,” said shooting guard Gerald Henderson, who led the Hornets in scoring Saturday with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting.
“I can’t tell you the last time we got a really good up-and-down in practice and worked through some things – probably weeks ago in Phoenix. We could definitely use some time to rest and time back in the gym.”
Henderson wasn’t blotting out what happened Saturday. Rather he was looking for what might fix this recent mess.
“Tonight was different from any other night we’ve had, but our record is tough to swallow,” Henderson said of 4-14.
He found it particularly perplexing that his team would look so flat at a time when it so needs to start winning.
“This should be the time when we’re at our hungriest, and we didn’t play very hungry tonight,” Henderson said. “When you lose multiple games in a row and you come up against a good team but one that we beat, we need a win.
“When you give that kind of effort, that’s never a good thing. That’s not who you want to be.”