Despite what the final score may say, Friday's loss to the Detroit Pistons was an ugly one for the Hornets. An insane 23-1 run in the fourth quarter made the score look more respectable than it was and deserved to be, because Charlotte just did not look good. Their defense was lackadaisical at best, and the team was doomed by yet another slow start — a worrying trend for a team approaching a likely postseason berth.
The past four first quarters have not been kind to Charlotte. On the season, the Hornets average 25.9 points per first quarter, shooting 43.8 percent from the field, 38 percent from deep and are outrebounded 11.8 to 10.5. That is not bad, and usually puts the team in a good position to get into their game. In the last four games though, Charlotte has averaged 19.5 points on 34.1 percent field goal shooting (including 26.7 percent from deep) and are getting outrebounded 15.3 to 9.8 in the first quarter.
Those numbers are surely dragged down by that awful first quarter against San Antonio, but those are still some very worrying statistics.
Something else worrying is the Hornets' lack of interior defense. The team had done a good job masking it lately, but Andre Drummond and the Pistons were able to exploit it Friday night. Drummond, who had 6.5 points and seven rebounds in the first two games against Charlotte this season, terrorized the Hornets early and often inside, and Charlotte had no answer. Drummond finished the evening with his 60th double-double of the season (18 points, 14 rebounds) and played a large role in Detroit's huge rebounding advantage (62 to 42, including 15 to seven on offensive rebounds).
Then, there's Charlotte's defense. Normally a strength, the Hornets looked disinterested in defense and boxing out in the first half, which allowed the Pistons to score 72 first half points. Reggie Jackson repeatedly went after Kemba Walker in the pick-and-roll, and Walker was never able to fight through the screen quickly enough to slow down Jackson, and the help defense always got there too late to slow Jackson down.
As a result, the Pistons took 51 shots in the first half and made 58.8 percent of them. This time, the Hornets were unable to mount another magnificent comeback, though they sure as hell tried.
The good news is Charlotte has the opportunity to make everyone forget about this game very quickly, as their next game is Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. Hopefully, they'll look a little more lively at the start of the game this time.