A strong first half was all for naught, as the Hornets struggled in the third quarter and lost to the Clippers on New Years Eve
The Charlotte Hornets had an opportunity to win two straight and continue to build momentum. In the first half, it seemed they might, but a poor second half doomed them to a 106-98 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The game showed the both sides of the Hornets. In the first half, they moved the ball with purpose, getting multiple players touches and finding open shots. Even when the shots weren’t falling in the first quarter, the Hornets continued to pass the ball. It paid off in the second quarter, as the bench grabbed the lead and the starters built on it.
But it all fell apart in the third quarter. The Hornets were outscored 33-14, as the Clippers found new life led by Lou Williams, who finished with a game high 38 points. Charlotte trailed by nine entering the fourth quarter. They cut away a bit more than once, but couldn’t get stops on defense, and Los Angeles held on.
Kemba Walker scored 30 points, but no other starter scored in double figures. The bench was solid offensively, with three players scoring in double figures, but they weren’t as effective on either in the second half.
To put it simply, the Hornets that beat the Warriors showed up in the first half, and the Hornets we’ve seen most of the season showed up in the second. It’s a disappointing loss for a team that maybe, just maybe, was turning a corner.
Will the Hornets be sellers?
It seems an obvious question, but more are wandering what the Hornets will do come the trade deadline. NBA.com asked as much in a recent blog post:
If the Hornets don’t turn their season around soon, they could be sellers at the trade deadline. Could another team use Nicolas Batum? How about Jeremy Lamb, whose departure could mean extended playing time for rookie Malik Monk and allow him to develop? The next few weeks will be crucial for the Hornets, who were expected to be better than this.
Batum and Lamb are certainly names to consider, but I could also see the either Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist included as well. If a team was willing to take on their contracts (which are large, but not as much as Batum’s) they could excel in certain roles elsewhere. Who ultimately gets moved will depend on what teams have to offer. More than likely, the return won’t be much, and the Hornets will essentially be freeing up cap space.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s also a reality. At 13-23, the Hornets aren’t likely to turn the season around. A chance to free up cap space and end up with a high draft pick isn’t a terrible result to a terrible season, unless of course the team manages to make poor decisions with the cap space and the draft pick.
Of course it’s important to note that Charlotte isn’t indicating they are sellers just yet, but hat could change as early as the next couple of weeks depending on how the current road trip ends.
Why have the Hornets lost so many close games? Steve Clifford has an answer.
Gavin Schall from Locked on Nets schools us on NBA Draft pospects
Adam Silver on the future of NBA broadcasts
Steve Clifford reveals why he thinks the Hornets lose so many close games
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Buzzworthy: Another frustrating loss; Graham stepping up
Recapping last night’s frustrating loss; plus, how Treveon Graham is stepping up in the rotation.
The Charlotte Hornets lost another close game last night, this time at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans. Charlotte trailed or led by one possession for much of the game, but come crunch time they couldn’t execute once again.
Dwight Howard, who continues to perform well of late, finished with a team high 22 points, and 16 rebounds. It marks the sixth straight game he’s totaled 15 or more rebounds.
He spoke with the media after the game, stressing that they cannot give up on the season:
"Guys are playing hard. We’ve just got to hold our head. You know, stay positive. The season's not over. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to fight and things will turn around." – @DwightHoward pic.twitter.com/JxjRbCmTQi
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 25, 2018
Howard has the right mindset. The Hornets are playing well, probably the best basketball since the start to the season in fact, but it is the same story over and over when it comes to close games. They are the worst team in the league in terms of winning close games, and there have been too many that have ended in a one or two possession loss.
And last night was so avoidable, but the Hornets went just 18-for-31 from the free throw line, and those misses extended beyond Howard. Twice a Hornets player was fouled attempting a 3-pointer, and in both cases the players made just 1-of-3. Given how important free throws have been for Charlotte this season, they can’t afford missing so many.
Treveon Graham “rising to the occasion”
Bench played has improved of late. Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb are leading the way, playing with more consistency on the offensive end. But Treveon Graham’s inclusion with the bench coincides with the rise in the play.
At The Hive’s Evan Dyal wrote a follow up piece on Graham earlier this week. Dyal made a case for Graham earlier in the season, and following Cody Zeller’s injury and Dwayne Bacon’s regression, Graham got his chance.
Graham is known for his defense, but Dyal points out how well he is shooting as an opportunistic scorer:
What this means is Graham only shoots when he is open, and if he is not shooting he is moving the ball. This has made Graham efficient in limited minutes, and it’s why he is third on the team in points per shot attempt according to Cleaningtheglass.com. Meaning he doesn’t shoot a lot, but when he does it’s a good shot, and it usually goes in.
Attempting just four shots a game, Graham is making 43.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3. It’s a low volume, but it fits when playing next to Kaminsky and Lamb, two players who need to shoot more in order to get into a rhythm. We’ve seen on a few occasions this where Graham won’t get touches in multiple offense possessions, only to pop up open from beyond the arc and knock down a crucial shot. It’s unlikely he will see an increased role offensive role this season, but it’s a building block for him. Assuming the Hornets re-sign him this summer, he could have a bigger role as he continues to improve his offensive game.
Buzzworthy: Walker snubbed from All-Star team
The 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, but Hornets guard Kemba Walker was left out
Kemba Walker has played at an All-Star level, but won’t be representing the Charlotte Hornets at this year’s All-Star game. The selections for the 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, and Walker didn’t make the list. For those curious, here are the Eastern Conference reserves:
— NBA (@NBA) January 24, 2018
I have no qualms about any of these — save for Kyle Lowry. I mean, come on. I understand the Hornets poor record was Walker’s undoing here, but Lowry has scaled his role back significantly last season. His shooting averages remain solid, but he’s averaging just 17 points per game, deferring to All-Star starter DeMar Derozan. More than anything, Lowry feels like the legacy pick. If the Hornets were closer to .500, Walker gets in, but Walker should get in regardless because as is painfully obvious this season, the Hornets struggle to play basketball when he isn’t on the floor. All-Stars represent players that are of high importance for their team (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself this very moment). Walker exemplifies that. Okay, maybe I’m being just a tad bit bias.
Batum happy with Clifford’s return
Since Steve Clifford returned last week, Nicolas Batum has played more aggressively. More shots are going up, and, overall, he looks more involved in the offense.
According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, it has a lot to do with the return of Steve Clifford:
That is no coincidence, Batum said Monday morning: Clifford is finding ways to get Batum, the Hornets’ best passer, more involved, particularly early in games. Sometimes that specifically means running plays featuring Batum. Other times, it just means leaning the offense more toward actions that have optimized Batum’s skill set in the past.
Batum is pleased. He says he feels in a rhythm, and he performed well in the heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday (which, yes, was partly his fault for turning the ball over late). Whatever your feelings about Batum, we can agree that he needs to play well, and be more involved in the offense. The ball movement increases as a result, which means better offense for the Hornets.
Clifford impressed with Kaminsky
Steve Clifford spoke well of Frank Kaminsky, stating he’s playing some of the best basketball of his career right now:
“He’s in rhythm and there is no hesitation right now. When he’s half-open, that ball is in the air. I don’t think there is anything more important for him than that. His exceptional trait, particularly for a man of his size, is to attack closeouts” when defenders over-commit to getting to him on jump shots.
Kaminsky is another polarizing figure with the Hornets. Consistency has been an issue, but as Bonnell points out, he’s scored at least 10 points in 10 of the past 13 games. That’s a mark of consistency, and it’s no wonder the bench is improving of late.