The Charlotte Hornets came into their second game at the Staples Center 20-20. They lost to the 4th place L.A. Clippers, 98-125 and it wasn’t even that close. The Clippers amassed a large lead early and kept that lead from tip to whistle. Miles Bridges came off the bench to lead the Hornets in scoring (21), while Paul George matched him on the Clippers side adding 10 assists and 5 rebounds.
Cody Zeller was ruled out for this game due to a shoulder injury. So, Bismack Biyombo got his 20th start of the season, which is a sentence that should never be written much less read. Paul George took charge of the game immediately scoring 12 of the Clippers first 28 points and assisting on 8 more. Defensive switches would leave the likes of Terry Rozier on the 6’8” George and he would finish over them. Charlotte struggled defending the 3-pt line again with the Clippers shooting 45% from the arc and drawing two 3-point shooting fouls in the first half.
PJ Washington left early into the 2nd quarter due to an ankle sprain and hit the bench, leaving an already sparse front court thinner. Everywhere you looked there were mismatches that favored the Clippers. Bizmack Biyombo was guarding Kawhi Leonard on the wing. Devonte’ Graham was guarding Paul George at the elbow. There are no good answers for perennial all-stars, but those match-ups put Charlotte players in bad positions. Even in transition, the Hornets were routinely outhustled.
PJ made it back on the court with 2:30 minutes left in the 1st half which was much needed. Nic Batum contributed some solid minutes as part of the Clippers bench unit, proving that if you want production from Batum just pay him the veteran’s minimum. The Clipper lead stayed around 20 points give or take a Gordon Hayward three or Lou Williams step back. Paul George ended the half with a 4th 3-pointer. The teams went into the locker room at halftime with the Clips leading 66-44.
LaMelo Ball came back out onto the court with his shooting wrist wrapped. With PJ playing with a limp, the Hornets were running out of viable options for buckets. Whether it was Leonard, George, or Morris the Clippers had any number of forwards who could not only put the ball in the basket, but defend the basket on the other end. Even with that talent at the forward position, Gordon Hayward brought his toolbox to the game, finding angles, racing to spots, and being the only Hornet who could efficiently make the offense work.
LaMelo kept favoring his right hand; shooting baskets with his right, but making passes, successfully, with the left. This made his defense null and void and gave the greenlight to whoever got switched on him. It became very obvious that the right wrist was going to limit LaMelo for the rest of the game.
The parade of injuries continued as Terry Rozier was ruled out for the rest of the game due to a hip contusion. Dell started talking about using this game as a practice to try out sets. Miles Bridges was a bright spot as after a hesitation early in the game he found his rhythm ending the game with 21 points on 5 of 9 from the arc.
The Clippers found ways to score at all levels. Whether it be a kick-out corner three from Marcus Morris or a pick and roll dunk from Zubac; the Hornets had no answers and no adjustments. Blame it on the injuries, blame it on the road trip, blame it on the hustle; the Hornets were beat from the jump and it was never close.
The hits keep coming as the Hornets continue their barnstorming tour in the Lone Star State playing at San Antonio on Monday and at Houston on Wednesday until they get back to The Hive against the Heat. The Spurs are 22-17 in the competitive western conference and looking for a suitor for LaMarcus Aldridge. With the contributions the Hornets have been getting from the five position, Charlotte fans may be hoping to come out of that Spurs game with more than just a notch in the win column.