The frustration was evident with the Charlotte Hornets' players tonight, as they found themselves unable to play consistent enough on both ends of the floor in a 101-91 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Hornets are now 0-3 on this current west coast road trip, and they haven't played well in any of the losses.
Tonight, the Hornets just weren't good enough defensively, allowing the Kings to score far too easily for most of the game. For parts of the first half the Hornets hung with them offensively, but this was a dangerous game to play, as the team has rarely been able to win a game due to their offense. Charlotte has played at its best when its playing strong team defense, and that wasn't the case tonight, or for the past couple of weeks quite frankly.
Tonight, Sacramento teased the Hornets -- they never got out to a large lead, keeping it most around an 11 point margin. Its the type of lead that can be easily overcome in the NBA, and the Hornets failed to do so on too many occasions. At halftime, Charlotte trailed 57-46, and that margin would hold at the end of the third quarter. Charlotte would cut the lead to seven or eight, but instead of cutting into the lead further, they put up low-percentage shots and the Kings would bring the lead back out to double figures.
All Charlotte had to do was make one short run, and it would have been a close ball game. They never could however, and a ten point loss accurately describes how much (or rather little) they were in the game.
Al Jefferson and Gerald Henderson were the team's first half heroes, scoring 11 points each. Jefferson looked like he might have a big night offensively with Jason Thompson matched up on him, but after the first quarter Jefferson struggled a bit to score consistently, and he finished with 17 points on 8-18 shooting. Henderson was the team's leading scorer with 20 points on 8-16. At one point in the 3rd quarter he created a mini-run of his own, cutting the deficit to seven. On their next offensive possession (a fast break), Henderson opted for a pull-up midrange jump shot in transition, rather than attacking the hoop or bringing the ball out. It was a shot indicative of the types of shots Charlotte as a team would take when starting to make a run, and by doing so bailed out the Kings.
Kemba Walker started for the first time since returning from injury, and put in an all-around performance with 18 points, five rebounds, and four steals. Visibly frustrated by the team's performance and the lack of calls against the Kings, Walker's received a technical foul after challenging a non-foul call against him. Two Hornets players received technicals --Walker, and Mo Williams -- and with both players having cases in their favor, the calls only added to the overall frustration of the team.
Speaking of Mo, the newest Hornet had his worst game since joining the team, finishing with 9 points on 3-15 shooting. He started 0-10 from the field, and didn't score his first point until late in the third quarter. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also struggled, both on offense scoring, and with defending Rudy Gay, who had one his best games of the season, finishing with 33 points and 9 rebounds. MKG's defense was solid at times, but Gay was in a zone scoring the ball.
Only two other players scored in double figures for the Kings -- Derrick Williams with 13, and Omri Casspi with 10. DeMarcus Cousins did not play, which makes this loss hurt a little more, as the Hornets missed an opportunity to beat a team without its best player.
From this point, the Hornets need to put the last three games out of their minds. They have all the right to be frustrated, as do the fans. The effort was there tonight, but the team just didn't play well on either end of the floor. Win number 30 continues to allude the team, and while they received some help from the league as both the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics lost, they cannot afford to lose many more.