Hornets Losing Streak Continues


The Charlotte Hornets lost to the Portland Trailblazers tonight 105-97. This game recap is not about tonight’s game so much as it is about the season, although the reason Charlotte lost tonight is pretty much the same reason why they have lost their other games.

Quick recap of tonight’s game: Charlotte led by 11 at halftime, but Portland came back quickly behind three point shooting from Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard, plus excellent work on the boards. Charlotte couldn’t get into an offensive groove, and missed several good looks to cut the lead to six with about 2:30 left. Once again, Lance Stephenson did not play in the fourth quarter. I’m not exactly sure what his sin was tonight, but it’s clear Steve Clifford does not trust Lance.

Somehow, the Hornets have already played one-fifth of their regular season games. But for Hornets fans, rooting for a team that is sitting at a mediocre record of 4-12, it seems like the season has yet to start. Through sixteen games, Hornets fans have suffered through heartbreaking losses, blowouts, poor body language and four very rare wins. At this point, nearly all preseason expectations have been forgotten.

Here’s a stat: before all NBA games end tonight, the Hornets may own the worst non-76ers record in the NBA.

Nov 26, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard

Lance Stephenson

(1) in a time out during the first half of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The reasons why the Hornets have failed so spectacularly up to this point are evident. Lance simply hasn’t played like a $9 million-a-year player. Heck, for the last two games, Lance hasn’t even gotten on the floor in the fourth quarter. Kemba, after landing a fat four-year, $48 million contract extension before the season, has not shown any recognizable improvements. Al Jefferson, an All-NBA performer last season, has missed countless shot attempts around the basket and has settled into a frustrating groove of bad defense.

The list goes on. Injuries to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, P.J. Hairston and Gary Neal have derailed the wing rotation. Marvin Williams can’t figure out how to consistently contribute on offense outside of spot-up shooting (he’s only been to the line twice this entire season!) and plays below-average defense on a good day. Cody Zeller, who has improved more than anyone anticipated, still commits way too many fouls. And who knows exactly what is going on with the Bismack BiyomboJason MaxiellNoah Vonleh situation.

The schedule hasn’t helped. Charlotte has already played nine games against the superior Western Conference, and play Golden State at home on Friday. Games on the road against Atlanta and back home against Chicago may very well leave the Hornets at 4-15. The Hornets will have to wait until December 17th to find a long-ish stretch against non-playoff teams.

More than individual players and the schedule, it is poor late-game execution that is sinking the Hornets. Remember the five-second call against Marvin Williams against the Knicks? Or the offensive rebounds surrendered to Portland in both games? What about the poor box-out against the Pacers, or the countless turnovers, shot clock violations, and missed shots against the Heat and Grizzlies? (I’ve erased the blown 23-point 3rd quarter lead against the Magic from my memory).

Nov 26, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford during the first half of the game against the Portland Trail Blazers at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve read this far and are hoping for suggestions on how the Hornets can win, I need to apologize for disappointing you. I have no suggestions, cures or remedies for what’s ailing the Bugs, at least none that you haven’t thought of yourself already. The team needs to do just about everything better.

But, if I had the ear of Coach Steve Clifford, I would tell him one thing: just win a game. I don’t really care how you do it, but win one, preferably the next game. The thing is, winning and losing are contagious. That goes for NBA teams, high school teams, or rec league. When the wins pile up, you feel unstoppable. But when you start to lose a few in a row, well, it feels like it does now.

Last season the Hawks made the playoffs with 38 wins. Charlotte will need to go 34-32 the rest of the way to hit that number, and must go 40-26 to eclipse last season’s record. Heck, it’s possible they do even better.

The team just has to win, and they need to start soon.