Let's not even try to defend the Charlotte Hornets defensive performance in last night's game against the Phoenix Suns. It was awful , and the lack of a solid defensive force like Nicolas Batum was never more obvious. Steve Clifford was constantly yanking players for lack of effort, and generally playing below what was expected of them.
All of that said, despite Charlotte's horrible defense, the Suns made it that much worse by having their best shooting performance of the season from behind the arc. Phoenix shot 57 percent from 3-point range on 33 attempts. That is an astounding amount that rarely happens against even the worst defense in the NBA. For example, the Lakers have the worst defense in the NBA and they're not regularly allowing teams to shoot that well. It's a rarity, and the Hornets just happened to run into that buzzsaw on a night where they decided defense was optional.
On the plus side, with the defense as bad as it was it forced Clifford's hand into unloading the bench and seeing what they could provide. This resulted in a few lineups that fans hadn't seen much of this season, and it's good to experiment right now, because we have no idea when the Hornets are going to be fully healthy.
Batum could be back tomorrow, or he might not be back in the lineup until the road trip is over. Until he's back it's beneficial for Clifford to find lineups that work, and can hold their own defensively. If not then this road trip is gonna get ugly fast.
Notes and Observations
It's weird to see so many of the problems from last year re-appear over the last few games. The shooting is still better thanks to the new roster and offensive system, but the lack of creators was very obvious against the Suns. Kemba Walker shot 24 times, and Jeremy Lin spent a lot of time dribbling as they desperately tried to create offense for the Hornets. We saw the negative effects with Lin's five turnovers, and Walker only making eight field goals. Phoenix obviously keyed in on them in an effort to slow them down. It worked.
Speaking of guards that got keyed in on, Brian Roberts was an absolute disaster with so much defensive focus around him. He played a heavy amount of minutes at the point guard spot, and he couldn't score at all, or run the offense efficiently in any way. He's always been up and down, but without secondary creators he might be better off left on the bench.
Troy Daniels on the other hand may have played his way into some more minutes. 13 points on nine shots, including three makes from deep, if he hadn't had a really bad defensive error in the closing stretch of the game there would be no question about him making the rotation. Unfortunately, defense is the issue right now and Daniels isn't fixing that.
There were definitely some problems with the offense last night at the beginning of the game, but the Hornets finished shooting 43 percent from the field. Not a great number by any means, but solid enough that a good defensive performance would have won them the game. Unfortunately for them Phoenix shot 48 percent so that obviously didn't' happen.
Frank Kaminsky made one shot last night. Suns rookie Devin Booker, that many experts had pegged going to Charlotte, had 17 points and 10 rebounds in a double-double. This doesn't really mean anything, but someone was gonna point it out.