The Charlotte Hornets defensive style is entirely designed around protecting the rim and trusting the perimeter. They play deep back near the basket, and perimeter defenders always come down to provide help. When the defense kicks out it's up to the perimeter players to either close out, or rotate. Rarely do the Hornets provide help defense on the perimeter which is how players like LeBron James can occasionally go off for huge scoring nights when his jumpshot is going.
Tonight however, the Cleveland Cavaliers made the Hornets defense look nothing like it's designed to be. With the system Charlotte runs they usually are pretty good at contesting near the rim, and forcing teams to take tough shots. The Cavaliers on the other hand sliced through the defense with ease on their way to the rim. Kyrie Irving and LeBron James in particular were fantastic at taking their man off the dribble, and beating the help with their speed. By the time Charlotte would rotate over those two were already attempting their layup.
Where things got really sloppy was when the Cavs would hurt Charlotte with passing. Perhaps this was an over correction due to James and Irving beating the help, but there's no real reason guys like Timofey Mozgov should be dominating on cuts.
Things started off okay with the Hornets actually leading by one early on. Nicolas Batum was a huge part of this seven points, four rebounds, four assists, and some solid defense. Frank Kaminsky had eight points himself and it was reminiscent to their earlier meeting before the All-Star break. It was the second quarter where everything fell apart.
Irving started to show off some of that incredible speed of his and J.R. Smith was making everything that came his way. Those two didn't miss a shot for the entire quarter, and James added on five points of his own. Yet despite all of this the Hornets were only down 11 at halftime.
In the second half the doors got blown open. Cleveland locked down on defense with a smothering of Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum. Al Jefferson contributed a little, but he's still coming back from that knee injury and going up against Tristan Thompson isn't exactly an easy task. With so many key players locked down it was up to the backcourt to deliver.
Kemba Walker was fantastic. He finished with 20 points and had moments where he was clearly carrying the Hornets for stretches. Jeremy Lin had some nice flashes as well and it looked as if those two would lead the way to a comeback. Unfortunately their efforts weren't enough, and the Cavaliers blew the lead out to 20 points as they cruised to the finish.
This was a disappointing loss, because the Hornets hardly played their worst basketball of the season, but they still got out played. Irving and James reminded people that they can dominate even the best of defensive systems, and Cleveland did a great job of taking advantage of weak spots in the Hornets lineups.
With this loss, the Hornets win streak comes to an end. It had to at some point, and while it's never good to lose, the Hornets are still playing some good basketball. This is just one of those bumps in a long regular season. Hopefully they can take what went wrong from this game and apply it to the next one.