Malik Monk scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds off the bench and Devonte’ became the first Charlotte player since DJ Augustin in 2010-2011 with double-digit 10-assist games in a 117-104 loss to the Grizzlies on Classic Night in Memphis, the Hornets’ fifth in-a-row.
Preface: these uniforms are both unreal. The Vancouver Grizzlies colors/logos are second to the Hornets’ in terms of throwbacks, and their court was cool. What a visually-pleasing experience this was.
Terry Rozier scored off of a tip play to get the game started, but it was a long time before the Hornets offense showed up again. The Hornets couldn’t get anything to fall, and their defense had already given up 13 paint points by the 7:29 mark, trailing 13-5. Terry had six points in the early-going while the Hornets’ shooting percentage failed to clim above 18.8% until the offense got a jolt of energy towards the end of the first. Memphis lead 24-10 with 2:58 remaining, but the Hornets cut it to 31-20 by the end of the opening frame thanks to five quick points from Malik Monk in the final 40 seconds.
James Borrego had the Hornets in a 2-3 zone following Grizzlies makes in the early second quarter. I think Borrego should do that more often going forward. Devonte’s and Terry’s size matters less when you throw them at the top of a zone instead of man-to-man situations. The Hornets did a good job generating free throws in the second quarter (16-24 FT at the half), but otherwise it was tough sledding and that culminated in a 42-29 Memphis lead at the halfway point. It took a bit, but eventually the 2-3 zone stopped the bleeding and forced the Grizzlies into some turnovers and bad shots. They were 5-19 3PT at the half and had only taken five free throws, but lead 56-46 going into the break after Marvin Williams hit a flagrant free throw because Jonas Valanciunas dropped an elbow on his face.
PJ Washington hit a pair of triples in the opening minutes of the third quarter to cut the Hornets’ deficit to 61-56, the closest the game had been in a long while. What really killed the Hornets in this one (other than the slow start) was their inability to string together a long run; they’d hit a few shots in a row and get some stops, but it never lasted long enough to put a dent into Memphis’ lead. Jaren Jackson Jr. — who was playing with four fouls — had seven points in the quarter and proved to be a matchup problem for the Hornets. They don’t really have anyone to defend lanky, athletic, fast bigs with shooting range like JJJ. On the other end, PJ posted eight points on 2-2 from three-point land in the quarter. He’s looked a bit hesitant since his return from injury. I don’t think he even shot until it was nearly halftime. Hopefully his aggressiveness returns soon, because the Hornets need offense from the rook.
Memphis lead 86-75 at the start of the fourth quarter. Malik Monk is an enigma. He’s good for one or two decent games every two weeks while the rest are subpar-to-bad, and I guess tonight was the decent night. He scored six straight to begin the fourth and finished with 18 points and five boards on 8-18 FG. Otherwise, the Hornets played from an 8-15 point deficit for the remainder of the game and dropped one on the road in Memphis with a final score 117-104. Once Dwayne Bacon and Willy Hernangomez checked in, it was a wrap.
Offensive boards killed the Hornets in this game, and many others. As did not being able to hit the broad side of a barn, but that problem will be solved sooner or later once Devonte’ and Terry catch fire again. Anyway, if veterans (Marv/Biz/MKG/Nic) are getting shipped out at the deadline, Mitch Kupchak should try and recoup a glass-cleaner (along with many, many draft picks). The team badly needs someone to beat and bang in the paint, because Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo are sadly not enough and PJ and Miles Bridges aren’t there yet as defenders.
The Grizzlies are not good, and this ties the season-long losing streak at five. Other than Cleveland, the Hornets don’t play a “bad” team until they see the Knicks on Jan. 28, so it would’ve been ideal to get a win here. Nevertheless, higher draft picks = easier rebuild. The best part about rebuilds is you can immediately spin a loss where the team shows very little spark into a net positive because they have a better chance at winning the draft lottery, don’t forget that folks. The early-season hot-streak was bound to regress to the mean sooner or later, and there may be some rough seas ahead.