Do you ever get that feeling, like today just isn't your day? Well that may sum up about the entire season for this year's Charlotte
Bobcats Hornets. If it's not one thing (say losing the rebound battle), it's another (like fouling too much). If one player gets healthy (Kemba Walker), another goes down (Cody Zeller).
This season just feels like one long bad day. And yet, it may end in a playoff berth. Despite the loss to the Chicago Bulls 98-86, the Hornets remain just one half game out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. It may not be pretty, or seemingly deserved, but this team still has as good a shot as any to make the postseason.
Tonight would have been a big win for the team's chances, but the team lost Al Jefferson due to injury, couldn't stop Nikola Mirotic, and forgot passing was allowed in the second half.
Before he left with injury, Jefferson was having a rough night. He finished just 1-for-7 from the field with three turnovers in 20 minutes. Despite the poor stat line, he played well within the offense during the first half. He was setting screens and moving constantly, which was key for keeping Chicago's strong side defense guessing. He had two great passes, both to his point guards. One to Mo Williams (a miss) would have been up there on the "best Hornets plays of the season" list.
Speaking of best plays of the season, Mirotic had a couple for the Bulls. This all started when Jason Maxiell and Mirotic found themselves guarding each other early in the game. While a tough cover for anyone, Maxiell had a real tough time guarding Mirotic, who can score from all over the court, put the ball on the floor, and post-up. Despite some decent coverage from Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Mirotic finished with 28 points and 9 rebounds off the bench for the Bulls.
The Hornets could have possibly overcome the loss of Jefferson and the hot shooting of Mirotic, but in the second half the ball movement came to a halt. Dell Curry, the Hornets incredible color commentator, pointed out that the Hornets had just one second half assist. One. That's one more than you and I had. This wasn't all on the Hornets. Without Al Jefferson, the Bulls were free to double team the ball handler, which forced Charlotte out of the paint.
So despite all of that, the Hornets were down just four points with 3:57 to play in the game. After a few misses by both teams, Mo Williams pulled up for a 3-pointer at the top of the key, it missed badly but Kemba Walker was right there for the tip-in. However, despite some questionable contact, he couldn't convert. The Bulls then pushed it up the court for a wide-open Mirotic 3-poiner, which extended the lead to seven wtih 2:35 remaining. Decent effort, but at this point of the season, all the losses hurt equally.
- Gerald Henderson started out with some great defense on Jimmy Butler, who finished the first quarter 1-for-4, 2 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 assists. However Butler saw plenty of Mo Williams and Lance Stephenson and ended the game with 19 points and 9 rebounds. He got to the free throw line 10 times.
- Kidd-Gilchrist had a few plays that should add to his highlight reel for All NBA Defensive Team (personally I think he should be a lock for the 2nd team). One play in particular he blocked a Mike Dunleavy layup and then immediately drew a charge on Taj Gibson. He also had a block while guarding Mirotic in the post.
- Kemba Walker finished with 29 points, but just two assists, and took 24 shots on the night. He had a real strong, and balanced first half, but was potentially "too aggressive" in the second. With the Bulls taking away the pick-and-roll and the post-up, his score-first play felt almost necessary, but it would have been better if he could have drawn extra attention then found open teammates to keep guys in rhythm.
- Marvin Williams passed up a handful of open 3-pointers tonight, after starting 2-2 from beyond the arc. Bismack Biyombo had some nice defensive plays around the rim and a few offensive rebounds, but overall didn't play his best game. Pau Gasol was given the midrange (again) early and often, which likely contributed to him hitting crazy shots later in the game. Mo Williams started the game 3-3 from downtown but then went 0-6 the rest of the way. Lance Stephenson had a good game, but for whatever reason didn't see much playing time in the second half.
- The Hornets face the Brooklyn Nets Wednesday in a huge game. The winner takes home the tiebreaker, which could be very important as both teams fight for one of the final spots in the playoff race.