This loss isn't as bad as the Los Angeles Lakers loss, but it definitely feels like it. Poor execution doomed the Hornets tonight in Portland. After jumping out to a HUGE lead in the first quarter, the Hornets seemed primed to win in a blowout fashion. Instead, they slowly blew the lead, until the Blazers took the lead in the 4th, never relinquishing it.
A popular target for blame will be Lance Stephenson, but it's not his fault. He played a good game. 14 points on 10 shots, and 14 rebounds is a good game. He didn't play excellent, and deserves some criticism. But blame for everything? That's not fair.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had another great game. 4-for-6 from the field, scoring 12 points. His defense was once again incredible. Everbody has noticed the massive improvements he's made this year and how much better he makes the team. Everybody but Steve Clifford it seems. I don't know what Kidd-Gilchrist has to do to earn Clifford's 4th quarter trust, but this is getting a little ridiculous at this point.
While it feels silly to blame Clifford for anything with how great a coach he is, a lot of tonight's loss falls on him. Charlotte looks like they have never once had a lead before. They don't seem to have any idea how to play with a lead, and execute poorly. At the end of the game, outside of a play here and there, it never felt like the Hornets were organized.
The highlight of that disorganization was when Lance Stephenson got the ball with about 15 seconds left on the shot clock. He proceeded to dribble around for 15 seconds, and turn the ball over. The rest of the Hornets stood around in isolation, while Stephenson dribbled. This was horrible, and perfectly highlighted the Hornets inability to execute late.
If the Hornets are going to start winning some basketball games, the ball has to move. The Blazers played some great ball denial defense on Big Al in the 4th quarter. The effort the Hornets made to get him the ball, was laughable. Any ball movement that would have created post entry passes, was slow, lazy, and predictable. That seems to be a theme this season.
Even with all of this, the Hornets had a chance to tie at the end and send it into overtime. With a fantastic double screen, Gary Neal was given a wide open lane to the rim. He pulled up for the dunk/layup, but barely didn't get it off in time.
Bad, bad loss, despite many Hornets playing well. Bad execution was their undoing, and they have some time to think about it with no game until Friday.