Tonight's 81-92 loss to the Dallas Mavericks wouldn't have been as big a deal if the team wasn't in the midst of a four game losing streak entering tonight. Charlotte's chances of a win were slim from the start--Dallas ranked third in the league in scoring at 106.1 points a game, and Charlotte hadn't won in Dallas since 1998. So, no, tonight's loss wasn't surprising, but it hurts, given that the team has now lost five straight for the second time this season.
A rough first quarter had Charlotte trailing 28-16, with the Hornets unable to put stops together. On offensive, the Hornets settled for a lot of contested, pull-up jump shots, rather than relying on the fluid ball movement that had proved successful in January. Part of this was the Mavericks' ability to take Al Jefferson out of the game offensively (more on this in below), but there was a clear lack of purpose in the Hornets offensive sets, and much of the offense, particularly in the first half, was a rotation of different players settling for contest mid-range or 3-point jump shots.
However, around the six minute mark in the second quarter, the Hornets' defense tightened up, and they were able to scrap back into the game after being down as much as 19. Had a few more shots fallen during that stretch, the Hornets likely would have trailed by less than 10 points entering halftime.
In the second half, the Hornets were able to cut the Mavericks' lead to seven or eight points on multiple occasions, but poor offensive possessions resulted in scoring opportunities for Dallas, and they would extend the lead back out to 11 or 12. The Hornets did manage to cut the lead to seven mid-way through the fourth quarter, but then Monta Ellis got hot and put the game away.
Ellis lead the Mavericks with 23 points, much of that coming in the fourth quarter. Richard Jefferson, starting in place of Chandler Parsons, finished with a double-double, with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Amar'e Stoudemire, in his Mavericks debut, finished with 14 points off the bench, and looked about five years younger (leaving the Knicks will do that).
The Mavericks executed their defensive game plan effectively tonight. Tyson Chandler made it very difficult for Jefferson to score in the post, not biting on any of his pump fakes or hesitations. Jefferson was clearly frustrated, and he resorted to taking a lot of mid-range jump shots, which is typically a shot he moves into after he's developed a rhythm in the post. With no shots falling from mid-range, Jefferson was taken virtually out of the game, and he finished with only eight points on 4-16, though to his credit, he finished with a game high 17 rebounds.
Charlotte's most reliable scorer was once again Mo Williams, who finished 22 points, 12 of which came in the third quarter. Williams has delivered the much needed scoring Charlotte desired of him, and should he keep this up he could become a valuable scorer off the bench once Kemba Walker returns.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist put in another good night, finishing with 15 points and seven rebounds. However, foul trouble plagued MKG once again, keeping him out of crucial points of the game. In the first quarter, Steve Clifford opted to keep him in the game after he picked up his second, but foul trouble came back to haunt him in the fourth, as Clifford was forced to keep him off the floor until the last three and a half minutes of the game with five fouls at that point. As strong a defender, and as aggressive a player Kidd-Gilchrist is, he has to learn to avoid picking up cheap fouls. Sometimes not going for a loose ball is the better play if it means avoiding an un-needed foul and staying in the game longer. Foul trouble aside, MKG put in another strong performance, and this sort of consistency, particularly on offense, is exciting to watch.
Marvin Williams lead the Hornets bench scorers with 15 points. I criticized him during the game for missing an open 3-pointer, but he did finish 6-8 from the field tonight, and was 2-3 from the 3-point line. Lance Stephenson (11 points) was the only other Hornet to score in double figures however, and (prepare yourselves) the rest of the Hornets players combined for only 18 points. Gerald Henderson only finished with four points on 1-6 shooting. His left hand was wrapped tonight, but Henderson's struggles have extended through the entire five game losing streak.
The Hornets will get a few days off before taking on the Chicago Bulls on the road Wednesday. After that, the schedule lightens up, with trips to Boston and Orlando, and a home game against the Lakers.