There was little in the Charlotte Hornets' 96-107 loss to the Dallas Mavericks that resembled the team's play in the month of March. There was ugliness everywhere, from poor shooting, missed free throws, and a trio of technical fouls. The Mavericks, losers of five straight, were desperate for a win, and set the tone early, denying the Hornets easy shot attempts, and outplaying them for all of the first half. Even with the late second half run, the Hornets made too many mistakes to earn what would have been a game they had little business winning.
And now, a rundown of what stood out:
Poor shooting in the first set the tone
The Hornets shot abysmally to start the game, shooting 27.2 percent from the field (6-22) in the first quarter. Amazingly enough, they trailed only by four heading into the second quarter. Still, this was very unlike the Hornets first quarters of recent games, where scoring well above 30 points had become the norm. It's unrealistic to expect a 30 point quarter every night, but 18 points is too few for a team that had been averaging 118 points per game in March.
The Hornets got open looks early on -- the first two possessions resulted in open 3-point attempts by Marvin Williams -- but those two misses started a trend of early missed shots that mounted as the quarter moved on.
The Hornets generally play better after a good first quarter, as it lets them get into a comfort zone and dictate the pace of the game. A slow start gave them no momentum heading into the second quarter, and they found themselves playing from behind for the rest of the night.
Poor free throw shooting didn't help either
I don't know what the deal was at the first throw line. The added pressure from shooting poorly may have contributed, but it was so unlike the Hornets to shoot so poorly from the line. Charlotte ranks 5th in the NBA in free throw percentage at 79.1 percent, but shot 64.7 tonight (22-34). Had they just shot their season average, it would have added five more points to the box score. While still not enough, it certainly would have made a difference when the Hornets were mounting their unsuccessful comeback. Seven players missed at least one free throw attempt, and Jeremy Lin missed two in a row at one point. As with the team's poor shooting, their free throw shooting was so unlike their recent play, and only added to the team's frustration.
The fourth quarter run that wasn't
Charlotte trailed by six heading into the fourth quarter, and then Kemba Walker made two straight 3-pointers to tie the game, and on the following possession, drew and converted two free throw attempts to give the team the lead. At this point, it looked like the Hornets would take control as they had in every fourth quarter this month, but the Mavericks buckled down and prevented the run and went on one of their own. When Raymond Felton took Walker one-on-one to the basket for an and-1 layup, I knew it was over.
The Hornets recent stretch of fourth quarter dominance was due to their defense. They were causing teams to shoet in the low 40 percent numbers, and taking advantage of missed shots and turnovers. That wasn't the case Monday, as the Mavericks put up 36 points in the quarter. They traded baskets back and fourth for a while, but it meant nothing with the Hornets down 10 or more.
It was a bad loss, but it should be an outlier
The streak ended at seven wins in disappointing fashion, but it shouldn't signal the start of a major decline. Dallas played desperate, but effective basketball, and caught the Hornets on a bad night. Charlotte's seven game home stand ends on Wednesday against the Orlando Magic, which gives them a good opportunity to bounce back with a win. Despite the opponent, it is an important game to win with a road game in Miami on Friday.