Takeaways from the Charlotte Hornets sixth consecutive defeat

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 17: Kemba Walker
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 17: Kemba Walker /

Changes may be needed as the Charlotte Hornets lost to the Chicago Bulls away from home despite 47 points from Kemba Walker.

Friday night, the Charlotte Hornets fell to the Chicago Bulls 123-120. This was the team’s sixth straight loss as they fell to 5-9 overall. There were a few positives and a lot of negatives, here are the biggest takeaways from the game.

The Hornets Two Calling Cards Are Nonexistent

Ever since the Steve Clifford era began in the 2013-2014 season, he’s preached two things. One of those being defense, the other being ball security. Well, it’s safe to say this season, and especially this game, both were nowhere to be found.

Entering this game, the Bulls ranked last in the league in both field goal percentage (40.5%) and points per game (92.4). As you can see, the Hornets were still not able to stop them.  

More from Swarm and Sting

Considering Chicago scored about 30 more points last night than their season average, it’s safe to say the team’s defense is no longer elite. This isn’t an overreaction, either. The poor defense has been on display for the past six games.

The league average going on Friday was 105.4 PPG. Over this six-game losing streak, the Hornets have given up 111 PPG. That six points begin to make a huge difference when considering the fact that five of the six losses have been by single digits.

Now onto the turnovers. Last season the Hornets had the lowest turnover percentage for a season in the history of the NBA. They will not be repeating that this season.

Looking at just the box score doesn’t appear like they were a major issue. The team lost the turnover battle just 13-11. However, it’s the timing of turnovers that have been killing the team.

Whenever the Hornets had a chance to cut down their deficit late against the Cavs Wednesday, an errant Nic Batum pass turned into a LeBron James highlight dunk. There was a similar play in this one. Down 115-111, right out of a timeout, with just under two minutes to go, the Hornets had a sloppy turnover leading to an easy Justin Holiday dunk.

Until the team can start playing defense and taking care of the ball in the clutch, the losing may not end for a while.

This Team Will Go As Far As Kemba Takes Them

Sure it was an extremely rough game to watch, but Kemba Walker was spectacular. In 38 minutes, Kemba had a blistering 47 points, six rebounds, and five assists. He did so on a 17-27 performance from the field and 5-9 from downtown.

After a few rough games, Kemba reminded us just how crucial he is to this team. The Hornets may not have won the game, but they wouldn’t even have had a shot unless Kemba put up 47.  

It’s impossible to ask a guy to do much more than that. Whenever the team still can’t win after a game like that, though, it’s hard to not keep asking that much of him. We’ve known this since the team’s last playoff run, but they can only go as far as Kemba takes them. When the game comes down to the wire or the team is struggling, nobody else can do what Kemba can.

We see flashes of brilliance from other guys here and there, but at the end of the day, it’s all Kemba. Knowing the fate of the team is always on his shoulders surely can be a difficult burden to bear at times, but Kemba continues to perform. He will feel like he has to do even more, even when he shouldn’t. Kemba is a great leader that would never put blame on his teammates.

He knows tonight started his 2018 All-Star campaign off strong, but he won’t care. We all want to see the team in the playoffs, but none more than him. It shouldn’t all hinge on him, but sadly, that’s just how it is.  

If Kemba continues to play like this the team may accomplish its goal. If not, and at no fault of his, it’s clear that’ll be very unlikely.

It Might Be Time to Consider a Change at Center

This is a tough topic to address, but it’s time to talk about it.

Dwight Howard has been the inferior center on the Hornets over the past three games. The stats don’t necessarily show it because Cody Zeller gets fewer minutes and is not featured in the offense much, but it’s true.

Dwight was playing at an All-Star level for the first few weeks of the season. Now, he just looks as if he’s already fatigued just a month into the year. He’s no longer as tenacious on the glass and just looks lethargic overall.

He seems disinterested in what’s going on, and it shows in the turnovers and shot selection.

Over the past three games, Dwight has had 13 turnovers. For a guy that’s not even handling the ball primarily, that’s completely unacceptable.

When it comes to shot selection, Dwight owns the paint. When he uses his strength to get to the rim against a smaller center, he’s successful. We saw it twice last night where he had big dunks after doing so. Sadly, another thing we saw twice last night was Dwight taking a mid-range jumper. One of them is just a step inside the three-point line.

It didn’t become clear until last night, but Cody has been better, despite that lack of statistical evidence. Cody has even been better defensively just from the eye test. He’s rotating much quicker than Dwight and showing more hustle overall.

One stat that does help that case that Cody has been better lately is this one; last night Dwight’s +/- was -11, and Cody’s was +8.  

So let’s hope this isn’t a permanent thing with Dwight, but it wouldn’t hurt to consider adjusting the roles of the two. Possibly moving Cody into the starting lineup could be a wake-up call Dwight needs. It also could help the team overall for the time being.

This isn’t to say that Dwight is a bad player. Whenever he’s playing well he’s significantly better than Cody, but he’s not playing well.

Who knows if Clifford would consider a change so soon, but it’s something to think about.

Next: Charlotte may have finally hit the draft jackpot

Last loss stings. The Bulls are arguably the worst team in the league and the Hornets still couldn’t pull it out. They’ll be hoping to bounce back at home against the Los Angeles Clippers.