There were stretches in Salt Lake City on Saturday night where the Charlotte Hornets looked like the team they thought they could be this season, but ultimately the game ended in what many Hornets fans have gotten used to in the last few games… And months…. And years--Heartbreak.
In the first quarter, the Hornets offense was working. Frank Kaminsky started in place of the injured Cody Zeller--and recently traded Roy Hibbert-- and flourished in his new role. Kaminsky scored the game’s first seven points, 10 of the Hornets first 12, and made his first four shots. Kaminsky’s explosive start, and the Hornets defense--the Jazz turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter--had the Hornets up 28-23 after the first frame.
The second quarter was a completely different story. The Hornets offense looked completely lost, but that was not much of a surprise, because Steve Clifford was forced to play guys who don’t play very much (Brian Roberts) and also guys who have never played with the Hornets at all (Miles Plumlee). Utah outscored Charlotte 29-16 in the second quarter. Plumlee actually looked solid in his Hornets debut, scoring four points, grabbing eight rebounds and blocking two shots, but there were multiple instances where it was clear he hasn’t actually played with this team yet, from not knowing the tendencies of his teammates to being unaware of where to be on the court.
Down 55-44 at halftime, the Hornets needed an offensive explosion in the third quarter to keep the game in reach, and they got it. The Hornets outscored Utah 38-21 in the third quarter, and with Kemba Walker hitting a ridiculous three-pointer to end the quarter and put Charlotte up by seven heading into the fourth, it was looking like Charlotte might get back to their winning ways.
They didn’t. Much like the second quarter, Charlotte couldn’t seem to hit any shots when it mattered most, and scored just 16 points in the final frame. Western Conference All-Star Gordon Hayward looked exactly like one in the fourth quarter, basically taking the game into his own hands.
The Hornets lost 105-98. That is their seventh straight loss, and are now five games below .500, at 23-28. There were definitely good things to take away from this game, but a loss is a loss, and the Hornets keep piling them up.