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Hornets' comeback attempt falls short in defensive slugfest, lose 69-71

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The team's offensive struggles came light again.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The Hornets' second attempt at a late comeback fell short this time, as Kemba Walker missed a jumper in the closing seconds that would've tied it late. The Grizzlies won 71-69 in one of the ugliest offensive games the NBA will likely see this season.

In a battle of two of the better defenses in the league, neither team was able to get much going offensively. The teams combined for 16 turnovers in the first 14 minutes of the game, both shot just over 36 percent from the field, and had high scoring quarters of only 23 points. Facing most other teams in the league, this game would've been a blowout one way or the other.

Ironically enough, it was some defensive lapses late that ended up ultimately costing the Hornets. Kemba Walker bit hard on two Mike Conley pump fakes late that led to open jumpers, and the team gave up a late three-point play to Marc Gasol, sealing the win for Memphis.

In his postgame press conference, coach Steve Clifford was as livid as he has ever been. Slamming the table multiple times while talking to the media.

"The disappointment, to be honest, if we defend in the last three minutes, we win the game," Clifford said. "So we bit on two shot fakes that you can't do in this league. ... Two blown coverages and two things we worked on this morning. We did a good job the whole game but two bad individual defensive plays and two blown coverages in the last three minutes cost us. It's disappointing. Very disappointing."

Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson and Marvin Williams combined to shoot 3-19 from the floor and for just 10 points. The Hornets shot 4-14 from three, and allowed nine offensive rebounds to the Grizzlies, as both teams struggled to make simple layups throughout the evening. Lance Stephenson also saw no playing time in the fourth quarter, which will be interesting to monitor going forward. Stephenson has looked like he is pressing too hard and trying to impress or prove his worth to someone, whether it's the fans, his teammates, or his new boss. Perhaps this is just the "bad Lance" we have heard so much about. But right now, he is not looking very comfortable on the offensive end. Clifford added in the postgame press conference that the reason Stephenson did not play in the fourth was because "we played better without him."

On the bright side, Al Jefferson shook off a slow start, finishing the game with 19 points on 8-19 shooting. Big Al was able to get in a bit of a groove late in the third quarter, when Marc Gasol went to the bench, and Kosta Koufos was forced to try and guard him. With a weaker defender guarding him, Jefferson went to work. His individual defense is also looking great early on this year, as his quick hands have notched multiple stops in each of the team's first two games.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also notched his first double-double of the season, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds — though the majority of both came in the first half, when MKG almost singlehandedly kept the team in the game. An aggressive MKG is a good MKG and I have loved what I have seen from the young forward through two games.

Coach Clifford said it best postgame: "We're not talented enough to play disorganized."

Good news is that the team has come nowhere close to playing to their potential and it is only game two of 82. As poorly as Charlotte played, they still had a great chance to tie and/or win the game late, which is all you can ask of any team.

The Hornets fall to 1-1 with the loss, while the Grizzlies improve to 3-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Why the Hornets lost:

Offensive struggles and Cardiac Kemba falling just short this time.

Player of the Game:

Al Jefferson — 19 points, six rebounds, two assists, four blocks, one steal

Next Game:

Sunday, November 2 — at New York Knicks, 7:30 PM EST (and it's on NBATV!)