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Hornets blow huge lead against Trail Blazers, lose 102-100

After starting off the first half so hot that the Trail Blazers had to replace the nets on one side of the court, the Hornets gave it all back in the second half and eventually fell to Portland 102-100. This was a very hard game to watch as a Hornets fan and one that might haunt Charlotte as it looks to find their first road win of the season.

Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. What more can be said? Ugh? Up by 23 points in the second quarter and shooting well over 50 percent, this looked like one of those games that was destined to go Charlotte's way. However, the Portland Trail Blazers put the clamps down in the fourth quarter and held the Hornets to just 15 points.

Near the end of what was a horrible fourth quarter for Charlotte, the score was 100-102 in Portland's favor. With just a little over three seconds remaining, head coach Steve Clifford called a play for Gary Neal out of the timeout. Miraculously he actually got to the rim and dropped in what had to be his first dunk of the year. Unfortunately, it was that extra contact with the ball that made what could have been a floater into a dunk that cost the Hornets a chance at overtime. The referees reviewed the play and correctly called that the ball left Neal's hand after the game clock had expired.

Check out the video above to see just how close that game tying attempt was to being good.

So the game ended terribly for the Hornets, who remain defeated on road games this year (0-4), but was there anything else to take away from the game?

Hornets hot start

Coming off a second half collapse against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Hornets looked energized and a little pissed off to start this game. Shots were falling, but more importantly, on defense the team was swarming and playing with an intensity that was non-existent at times against the Lakers. The Trail Blazers could only muster 21 first quarter points, while the Hornets put up 35 on 63.6 percent shooting.

Lance Stephenson in particular looked like a brand new player. He started the game with a catch and shoot 3-pointer and a pull up jumper out of the pick and roll. The difference? Both shots were makes. He ended the game with 15 points and 14 rebounds on 5-10 shooting and just two turnovers. He will get flack for his final turnover though, which came at the end of a very important possession in the game's final frame. However that possession was like a botched hand-off in football, the Hornets were just lucky not to take negative yardage.

You thought defensive rebounds were covered

Before tonight's game, the Hornets led the league in defensive rebounding percentage at 81 percent. However, the Trail Blazers were relentless on the glass, finishing the game with 15 offensive rebounds. It all started in the first half with Chris Kaman getting three offensive boards by himself while going up against the under sized Jason Maxiell. In the fourth quarter, when it mattered most, the Hornets gave up six offensive rebounds, none bigger than the one LaMarcus Aldridge pulled down over Cody Zeller with 17 seconds remaining, and the Hornets down just two.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, always the setup man, never the closer

Through three quarters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 12 points, 3 fouls, and 4 rebounds on 4 of 6 shooting. He was playing incredible defense on Wesley Matthews who got most of his points against P.J. Hairston and was cleaning the glass in the third quarter as the Blazers tried to mount their run. Basically he played incredible in the game's first 36 minutes. With the Hornets trying to hold a lead in the fourth quarter (not mount a comeback), he played 28 seconds. Twenty. Eight. Seconds. Now the Hornet's offense was struggling in the fourth quarter, but there is no way it could have been worse with Kidd-Gilchrist out there and at least defensively he would have done his normal thing. It remains unclear what he will have to do to earn Clifford's trust to play in fourth quarters, especially fourth quarters where Charlotte has a lead.

Cody Zeller, defensive stopper

In the games first half, the defense of Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams held Aldridge, one of the league's best scorers, to just 4-11 shooting. Zeller drew a large part of that assignment and did very well at contesting Aldridge's fall away jump shot. However, in the second half, Aldridge's trademark shot started to fall and he exerted himself on the boards. Cody Zeller has had some really good defensive moments this year against Anthony Davis and Paul Millsap, but the weight of Aldridge was too much to handle over a full game. Still, the Hornets have to feel good about Zeller's defense as the second year player continues to show improvement all over the floor.

Final thoughts

  • This was a really tough loss for the Hornets who have two more games out West against the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
  • Hairston had a couple good defensive moments against Allen Crabbe, including this steal:

If this team can put a full game together and execute like they did in the second half of next year, there is potential for a really good team here. Improved MKG, improved Gary Neal, improved Cody Zeller, Al Jefferson doing his normal thing, good Lance Stephenson, and hopefully a trade to improve the frontcourt depth, this team could have legit potential.