Going into this game against the Indiana Pacers the Charlotte Hornets were 4-7 and many fans were wondering if it was time to panic. The optimists scoffed at the idea. There haven't been enough games, they claimed. The team is riddled with injuries, they said. Have you seen the schedule? It's been brutal!, they screamed. A win against the Pacers would have at a minimum kept the Hornet's panic level to code yellow. As silly as it is to consider a game in November a "big game", this was a big game for the
However, the Hornets did not win and instead lost to the Pacers 88-86, on a last-second tip nonetheless. After another heartbreaking loss, which felt so similar to the one to against Portland Trail Blazers, it is time to break out the "Hornets Panic Level Meter".
Fresh off another tough loss to the Trail Blazers and two blow-out losses against the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors, it might seem fair to up the meter to Orange. However, it is still November and the Hornets haven't been blown out by any bad teams (other than the Los Angeles Lakers coming off of four nights of rest). Let's just all be thankful the Hornets are in the Eastern conference.
The good, the bad, and the ugly
Fortunately for the Hornets, there were a few good things that happened during this loss. Al Jefferson rebounded from a tough game and put up 28 points on 12 of 22 shooting. Other than a tough stretch to start the second half, it felt like Jefferson couldn't miss for a most of the game. In his first regular season game against the Pacers, Lance Stephenson almost had a triple-double (10 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists) and had a few highlight plays. He ran a pick and roll with Bismack Biyombo that lead to an alley-oop. Oh, and he had this Michael Kidd-Gilchrist like block on the master of rejection himself Roy Hibbert.
As you can see by the score in the video above, Stephenson's block was early in the game and the good soon turned to bad. Kemba Walker started the game well but would eventually falter late, shooting a miserable 1 of 8 in the second half. He actually played some decent defense this game, but he made two bad plays to end each half. In the first, he let Donald Sloan into the paint with less than three seconds remaining on the clock, which lead to a foul and two free points for the Pacers. To end the game, Walker failed to generate a good shot on the Hornets' final offensive possession.
Unfortunately for Hornets fans, the all time great Clint Eastwood movie wasn't titled just "The Good and The Bad". There was an ugly and that designation goes to Gerald Henderson. Despite doing his normal hustle things and playing great defense on Chris Copeland (the Pacers leading scorer this year), Henderson failed the Hornets when it mattered most. On the last play of the game, in a situation where an offensive rebound was deadly, Gerald Henderson totally forgot to box out his man. This gave Solomon Hill a clear path to the rim for the game winning put back. Oh and Henderson shot 0-for-6 from the field.
- The Hornets and Pacers were both undermanned tonight. No Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, P.J. Hairston, Gary Neal or Jeff Taylor for the Hornets and no George Hill, Paul George, David West, or C.J. Miles for the Pacers. This lead to some interesting lineups, my favorite of which was Kemba Walker, Brian Roberts, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller, and Bismack Biyombo. In just 6 minutes on the floor, those five guys outscored the Pacers by 10 points. Unfortunately, Clifford abandoned this lineup early in the 4th quarter.
- This was by far Jason Maxiell's best game. He saw almost all of his minutes at power forward next to Al Jefferson or Bismack Biyombo. After a normal first half (six minutes, two points, and one rebound), Maxiell had a great second half (seven minutes, six points and five rebounds). He also played the majority of crunch time. Bismack Biyombo played great in his 13 minutes with 9 points and 7 rebounds. Maybe Clifford's motivational tactics are working.
- The Indiana fans gave Lance Stephenson his fair share of boos during the game. After an emphatic defensive rebound by Stephenson early, he started to push the ball up the court in a very Lance-like way. The boos rained down and he ended up turning it over. It really felt like the fans forced the turnover. However, Stephenson threw Biyombo an alley-oop so nothing else matters.
This was a very tough loss and the Hornets are on the brink of code Orange, so to make you feel better, I'll leave you with this video of Biyombo throwing down the hammer.