The Charlotte Hornets could have laid over and lost this game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the very beginning if they had chosen to do so. Really, would anybody have blamed them? They lost Al Jefferson for six weeks before the game even started. Jeremy Lin, who has proved to be a very versatile guard off the bench, had to sit out with injury along with backup center Spencer Hawes. That's four players we frequently see play major minutes out before tip off. Hell, Charlotte almost lost Nicolas Batum as well, but he was well enough to play through his injury. This was a game that the Hornets could have thrown in, and chose to accept their loss. Except they didn't. They fought through, and almost pulled out a huge win. That's worth commending.
Now, with all that in the way, Charlotte did not play their greatest basketball of the season and it's really incredible that it was as close at it was. From the very beginning fans knew this one was going to be a struggle as the Clippers took a 10 point lead right out of the gates. From that point on the tone for the game was set. The Hornets would fight back and bring the game to single digits, but then Los Angeles would push them right back the other direction and take another double digit lead. Back and forth this went for the entire game, and Charlotte never once was able to get a lead.
The biggest reason for this was the Hornets inability to get stops when they needed them most. The defense was never consistent, and it's exhausting for a team to constantly be playing catch up for an entire game. The bench in particular was clearly overmatched by the Clippers firepower, and allowed players like Austin Rivers to go off for 22 points. This was a night where the Hornets depth was challenged defensively and it failed. Of course, most teams depth isn't going to succeed without four players that receive regular minutes, but it would have been nice for the players that took their spots to step up.
Tonight was a reminder that despite how well the Hornets have played this year their roster is still very far from where many of us would like it to be. Still, they had some solid moments on the offensive end and kept it close for the majority of the game. Jeremy Lamb returned to his November form on the way to 19 points, and Kemba Walker continued his all-star campaign with 29 points himself. Frank Kaminksy added 20 points himself, but he's still struggling to score efficiently. That said, he's finding his way in the NBA.
The Hornets past moral victories at this point, but it's impressive they found themselves in this game at all. If the defense had just gotten a few more stops then this could have very much gone the other way. However, it didn't go the other way and the Hornets are going to have to find a way to get the defense going despite all of these injuries.