Takeaways after the struggling Charlotte Hornets fall to the Lakers

Former Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard. (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images)
Former Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard. (Photo by Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Charlotte Hornets dropped their third straight game as they continue to struggle against evenly matched teams.

The Charlotte Hornets fell to the Los Angeles Lakers 110-99 last night, marking the team’s third straight home loss. After a win on Monday against Orlando, it looked like they may start turning things around. This has not been the case as the team has lost three times in the last four nights on their home floor.  

While the team was shorthanded in the last two games, these were both bad losses. The Hornets were 9.5 point favorites against the Chicago Bulls, and 4.5 point favorites against the Lakers. So, what went wrong last night and what should we take away from the games? Here are some of the biggest talking points.

1. It’s Time to Panic in Charlotte

When the team dropped six straight games after starting the season 5-3, it was not the time to panic. When the team lost four straight after getting back to 8-9, it was not the time to panic. Now, when the team just lost to two of the league’s worst teams at home and looked to not care while doing so, is the time to panic.

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Just 25 games into the season, the Charlotte Hornets have had three losing streaks of 3+ games. Even in last year’s disappointing season, it took them until January 10th (Game 39) to reach that feat. What this shows is that the team has an uncanny ability to not be able to get over losses. Even on their home court they just couldn’t generate enough momentum to bounce back from the previous night’s heartbreaking defeat.

When a team loses to a team they should beat it’s considered a blip. When a team loses to teams they should beat regularly, maybe they are the bad team.

The team and organization can no longer afford to let the losses pile up and assume that the team will “get them next time”, just because expectations were high. The team either must be confident it can make something happen to turn this ship around, or it should commit to tanking. Fans were not only expecting the playoffs this season, but they were expecting to win a playoff series. Now, they aren’t even sure if the team will be in the playoff hunt around the All-Star break.

The Lakers are a young team that a team full of veterans should’ve been able to pull away from once they had a lead in the second half. It’s still fairly early in the season, but the time is ticking on this team.

2. Dwight Howard Could Be An All-Star

One of the few positive things to take away from this game was Dwight Howard once again. Friday night against the Bulls he had 25 points and 20 rebounds. Last night he had 21 points and 12 rebounds, with eight blocks between the two games. Neither Robin nor Brook Lopez had an answer for Dwight.

On the season Dwight is averaging 15.5 PPG and 12.5 PPG. There have been a couple rough stretches for the big man, but mostly he’s been great. With that being said, there are not that many big men playing better than Dwight.

Joel Embiid, Al Horford, Kevin Love, and Kristaps Porzingis are the only big men that you can definitively say are playing better than him.

Depending on how many big men make the ASG and how Dwight plays through February, he may very well find himself among the stars for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.

The biggest issue for Dwight so far this season has been turnovers, he’s averaging 3.7 TOV. This is his highest mark since his 3.9 in the 2006-2007 season. He also has astonishingly disappointed from the free throw line, but has improved in the past few weeks.

It’s hard to tell if Dwight will be able to maintain this play throughout the season. He’s been known to have locker room difficulties and the teams failures may begin to hinder him. One thing I do know, is that making the All-Star game this late in his career would be HUGE for him. Dwight is a surefire Hall of Famer and will go down as a Top 10 Center of All Time. Despite all of that, his past few seasons have caused people to view him as overrated or “soft”. Proving that he still has it at this age may cause the doubters to remember what he once was as well.

3. Johnny O’Bryant Needs to Play Smarter

This isn’t to say he played bad necessarily in place of Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky.  J.O.B. contributed to the team with 11 points and seven rebounds in 16 minutes. However, assuming he will still be getting minutes while Zeller and Kaminsky are out, he has to know to play smarter.

In just 16 minutes, O’Bryant put up 15 shots and made five. To put into perspective how high volume of a shooting performance that was, Kemba Walker averages the most FGA per game on the team with 16.7. Oh, by the way, that’s in 35.5 MPG, not 16.  

The team was without three bench players, two of which are the main scoring options in the second unit. So the blame doesn’t entirely fall on J.O.B., he was one of the more effective options the team had on the night. I just wanted to address this because we will most likely be seeing more of him in the near future.

There were a few ill-advised shots taken before the team could get any type of ball movement. Moving forward he just needs to learn to settle down on offense and help get the offense flowing. It’s great to see him taking initiative when the team needed it, and having Jeremy Lamb back will help him.

4. The Hornets Home Court Advantage Could Be Disappearing

As I’ve addressed several times, the Hornets are significantly better at home than on the road historically. They’ve always had to take advantage of their home games to make up for their road record.  

The last three times the franchise has made the playoffs, their home record has been great:

2009-2010: 31-10

2013-2014: 25-16

2015-2016: 30-11

Some of the team’s success can surely be attributed to crowd itself. I can specifically remember how electric the crowd felt during the impressive 2015-2016 season. That home court advantage seems to be slowly fading, though.

The Hornets past two games have been on Friday and Saturday nights, the two best nights of the week to have a game. In both games, the stands were fairly empty. You cannot expect most NBA teams to sell out all 41 home games of the season, but fans seem to not want to show up at all anymore.

Is part of that on the fan base? Sure, but if the team isn’t putting out a great product, fewer people will show up. It’s that simple. The Hornets are starting to lose what seems to help propel them to their playoff runs.  

It doesn’t even stop at people just not showing up. Last night as the final minutes approached, “Let’s Go Lakers!” filled the arena. You could hear Lakers fans louder than any Hornets fans on the night.

Let’s hope the team doesn’t completely lose its fans, but it could be headed that way.

Next: Charlotte may have finally hit the draft jackpot

The Hornets next game is on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder Monday night. Let’s hope the team will find a way to turn this around on the road, where they are 1-10 on the season.