It may be a new year, but things did not look all that different for the Hornets. They began the new year the same way they ended the last one, with a loss. Their fifth consecutive loss actually. It drops the team to 10-24 on the season, and with Lance Stephenson still on the mend and Al Jefferson out for the foreseeable future, the season outlook grows bleaker by the day for the team.
It didn't start off poorly. Remember the last time the Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers played? How Charlotte needed almost the entire first quarter to score a single point? Tonight was the antithesis of that. The Hornets came out on fire, shooting more than 60 percent from the floor in the first half and outrebounding Cleveland 12 to 5. That rebounding advantage would grow to 31 to 17 by halftime and get to be as big as 17. Charlotte's bench outscored Cleveland 21-10 in the first half. The Hornets held Cleveland to their lowest first half point total this season.
Everything was looking great. The Hornets had even had a couple of highlight plays to top it all off.
First, Cody Zeller decided he was angry at the rim and wanted to obliterate it.
Then Kemba Walker and Cody decided to go And 1 Mixtape Tour on the Cavs.
Gerald Henderson even got in on the action.
As I said, everything was great.
Then, the Hornets suddenly devolved from the great team from the first half. They started playing Cavs ball instead of Hornets ball. They looked lost on offense without Big Al (they even gave Jason Maxiell multiple ISO plays in the post. Jason Maxiell of all people! Were they just so used to throwing the ball down low that it doesn't matter who is down there anymore?). They began to show defensive lapses. Their rebounding advantage shrank down to one midway through the fourth quarter.
The trouble really began early in the third quarter, when Kevin Love, who scored a game-high 27 points, looked like he injured his knee going up for a dunk against Bismack Biyombo. Cleveland called timeout, and Love then proceeded to hit three consecutive 3s and lead the Cavaliers on a 15-4 run. The game went from one the Hornets were one run from pulling away for good to one where the Cavaliers were winning and Charlotte was scrambling for answers.
Cody Zeller was benched in favor of Marvin Williams, who Clifford hoped would be able to handle Love's range better. But it took out one of the team's best rebounders, and from there, Cleveland was able to just continually chip away and get back in the game.
It is a shame because there were positives to take out of this game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist played one of his best games of the season, and easily his best game since his injury. He finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds, his third-consecutive game scoring in double-digits and his third double-double of the year, and looked great on both sides of the ball. His hustle was one of the few bright spots for the team in the second half. MKG and Biyombo combined to play outstanding defense. The two seemed to play well together and gave the Hornets two rim protectors and rebounders.
The team also had a very balanced offensive attack. Henderson led the team with 14 points and was just one of eight players to score eight or points. Unfortunately, that strategy works much better in college ball than it does at the professional level.
In the end, the team's sloppy play — they shot 36.8 percent from the floor, 65.4 percent from the free throw line and had 15 turnovers which led to 23 points for Cleveland — was too much for a shorthanded and struggling squad to overcome.
Hopefully tomorrow night's game against the Orlando Magic can bring the team more luck.