Down 24 at halftime, the Charlotte Hornets suffered another big loss to a Western Conference team, losing 107-80 to the Dallas Mavericks. The Hornets allowed 67 first half points to one of the best offensive teams in the NBA, allowing 35 points in the second quarter alone.
Tonight was the poorest performance by the Hornets all season. While Saturday's loss to the Warriors could be excused to exhaustion from the four game road trip, tonight the Hornets were not ready to defend the Mavericks' ball movement, which led to a number of wide open 3-point attempts. While the Mavericks only finished 10-28 from the 3-point line, they made six early into the game to help stretch the lead out early.
The Hornets only had 24 points in the paint compared to the Mavericks 50, and had zero fast break points.
Only two starters scored in double figures for Charlotte; Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, and only one other player(Pargo) scored more than 10. Henderson finished with a team high 18 points on 8-14 shooting. It was Henderson's best game of the season, unfortunately it came during the Hornets worst game of the season.
Al Jefferson also had arguably his worst shooting games as a Hornet, scoring only six points on 3-12 shooting, with five rebounds, and five assists. The Mavericks were determined to not let Jefferson beat them, double teaming him often. When he did get get shots off, he uncharacteristically missed them, making it a frustrating night for him on the offensive end. On defense, Jefferson was exploited, as the Mavericks threw lob after lob to Tyson Chandler for at least four alley-oops in the first half alone. These plays weren't all Big Al's fault, as the Hornets guards didn't defend well enough off the pick and roll, which left Jefferson in no mans land and unable to defend the lob.
In the 3rd quarter, Charlotte managed to trip the Mavericks' lead down to 17, but after a Dallas timeout the Mavericks went another a run that all but put the game out of reach.
The Hornets are now 1-4 in their last five games, and while most of the losses came against quality opponents (besides the Lakers of course), there should be concerns as to how this team is playing. Their defense, which was the staple of their identity last season, has regressed farther than many expected, and the offensive execution looks broken at times. Injuries have caused set backs, but their inability to close out games, as they should have against Portland and Los Angeles, indicate this goes beyond just injuries. The Warriors and Mavericks are two of the league's top teams, and these losses show just how far the gap is between Charlotte and them.
While it's still too early to make any predictions about where this team will finish at the end of the season, right now the Hornets just aren't very good. That could change once Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gary Neal return, but the team has problems to fix that go beyond getting those two healthy again.
If there was one positive from tonight, it was Noah Vonleh's play in the fourth quarter. Vonleh had six points in seven minutes, and scored in a variety of ways. His first NBA points came off a post-up, turnaround, fadeaway jump shot, and he knocked down a 3-pointer for the game's final points. His defense was solid, and he managed two rebounds as well. Granted, he was guarding Charlie Villanueva, but at the very least, Charlotte fans can take solace in knowing that Vonleh is already a better player than Villanueva. Vonleh's performance tonight was a glimpse of what he could be for Charlotte in a couple of seasons. While he's being talked about as a five man, he went with the face up game more often than putting his back to the basket. Whatever the case, he showed a little bit of what he is capable of, and hopefully he will see meaningful minutes as the season goes on.
Next up, the Hornets travel to Indiana to play the Pacers. It'll be the return of Lance Stephenson to Indiana, so it should be interesting.