I normally remain even-keeled watching the Hornets, deciding sometime ago that evoking any kind of physical or verbal reaction wasn’t worth the effort (though I confess that my old roommate and I used to call Anthony Tolliver 3-pointers “Tolliver Daggers” and created choreographed hand motions where we stabbed the air around us. I’m not proud, but I don’t regret it). Obviously, It feels good when things are going well, but that doesn’t happen enough with this team, so finding a happy medium, which in this case is feeling little to nothing one way or another, works well enough for me. It’s as Ivan Drago once said, “If the Hornets die, they die.”
But last night’s game against the Pelicans forced something out of me. I was yelling at the TV, and pacing around my living room. My cat, napping near my feet, swiped at me for scaring the hell out of her. While it was entertaining throughout, the fourth quarter turned it into one of the best games of basketball I’d seen all season. It was the kind of game that warrants the use of #LeaguePassAlert, and ignites Twitter into a frenzy. Its the game you want the casual NBA fan to watch so they understand why Kemba made the All-Star team over Joel Embiid, and the one you show your snobby friend who only watches college basketball because he doesn’t think pro basketball players try hard enough.
It was fun in every sense of the word, but it still cost them.
Last season, this loss would’ve been fine. The Hornets were good enough that losing the entertaining game still felt like winning. This season, though, especially given the timing, it stings, and no matter how much I want to shrug it off and say, “At least it was fun” its another close loss Charlotte wishes they could have back.
The Hornets are now 0-6 in overtime games this season. Two of them have come against the Pelicans, and both times Anthony Davis put up an ungodly amount of points, virtually beating the Hornets by himself. If only New Orleans included a clause in his contract that stated he’d get paid extra to sit out games against Charlotte. There’s literally no incentive for them to do this, but dammit they owe us that much, because watching him single-handily beat the Hornets over and over is likely giving us long-term health problems.
Davis finished with 46 points, two shy of what Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum had combined, along with 21 rebounds. He negated perhaps the best game of the season from Marvin Williams, and essentially scored every point DeMarcus Cousins didn’t. The few times the Hornets prevented him from scoring felt like a minor miracle, and while stopping Davis a few more times may have helped, the Hornets cost themselves the game because they couldn’t make enough plays on the other end.
A few moments come to mind. For starters, the Hornets had four chances to score on one possession with around three and a half minutes remaining, and couldn’t convert. First, Marvin Williams missed a layup, then Walker, Williams, and Batum each missed open 3-point attempts. When the Pelicans finally got possession, they put it in Davis’ hands, and he knocked down a 3 to give them a seven point lead.
In overtime, the Hornets had the ball up two, and found Walker open from deep. It was a near perfect shot for him — open, and on the wing — but he missed it. Instead of going up five with under two minutes remaining, Davis scored three straight off a layup and one free throw on the next possession to give his team the lead. On Charlotte’s next possession, Batum turned it over, which led to a layup on the other end from Davis.
Batum’s turnover caught a lot of flack when it happened. He’s done it before in late game situations, so seeing it again fits the narrative that he is bad in late game situations. I’ll concede that it absolutely hurt them in that moment, but the Hornets aren’t in overtime without his 10 points and game-tying 3-pointer in the fourth quarter.
If we’re really being picky, Batum’s turnover likely doesn’t happen if Walker’s 3-pointer a minute earlier goes in. The momentum shifts in Charlotte’s favor, and a two-possession lead changes how the Hornets are approaching things on the offensive end. Really, the difference was Charlotte made a number of great plays, but not enough, while the Pelicans, or rather Davis, got buckets when they needed them.
I wish I could enjoy this loss. It was enjoyable at first, but once the buzz wore off, the reality hit that losing made their playoff chances even slimmer, with Milwaukee, Detroit, and Miami all winning. If you’ve given up on the Hornets making the playoffs, or, like our own Steve Bob Forrest is, content with the season, then you take losses like this the rest of the way. If you’re like me, holding out hope they can sneak in, I’d suggest suppressing your emotions like I have, but based on last night, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to do so.