The Charlotte Hornets lost their fifth straight game Tuesday night, falling to the Portland Trailblazers, 115-98. Kemba Walker led the team with 22 points and five assists, while Nicolas Batum finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists.
Things started positively, believe it or not. A combination of solid defense from Charlotte and poor shooting from Portland led to an early lead for the Hornets, but things progressively got worse as the quarter wore on. Portland began to knock down shots, and led 28-23 at the end of the first.
The Blazers continued shooting well into the second, and led by double-digits. Charlotte, however, managed to chip away as the half ended, and trailed by just six heading into the second half.
But the game spiraled out of control in the third, as the Hornets were outscored 30-18. Portland put together a couple of solid runs, and by the early minutes of the fourth Charlotte looked defeated.
That, above everything, was most concerning. Charlotte looked outmatched at times tonight against a team that has had its own share of struggles. While they managed to cut the deficit at times, they never look convincing enough to actually mount a full comeback, as the Blazers often answered a big play from the Hornets with one of their own.
A few bad stretches were to be expected this season, but its doubtful anyone on the team expected such a run to last this long. They aren’t defending like they used to, and its why they’ve given up well over 100 points in each game during this five game losing streak.
The majority of Portland’s points came from three players — Damian Lillard, Alan Crabbe, and C.J. McCollum. Beyond them, only Moe Harkless scored in double figures. But the Hornets were outmatched in the paint, as three Blazers totaled 10 rebounds or more, and as a team, out rebounded Charlotte 51-41. 11 of these were offensive rebounds, which contributed to the 44 points they scored in the paint.
Cody Zeller certainly would have helped in the interior, but this goes beyond absence. Unless the Hornets can start defending again, its hard to see them breaking the losing streak anytime soon. And it likely won’t be tomorrow, as they’ll travel to the Bay Area to face Golden State for the final time this season. Unless Steph Curry demands a trade to the Hornets between now and tip-off tomorrow, its unlikely the Hornets are going to break the streak.