Heading into tonight’s game, the Charlotte Hornets had plenty working against them. For one, they were facing the league’s best team coming off a loss — the Warriors hadn’t lost back to back games since April 2015. We also learned that Zeller, one of our steadiest players, was ruled out prior to the game with a quad injury. This would shorten the bench as this forced Clifford to insert Hibbert into the lineup. The uphill battle was imminent but the Hornets competed for most of this game. In the end, the Warriors fire power and stingy 4th quarter defense proved to be too much for the Hornets as they lost 113-103.
The Hornets were without Cody Zeller in tonight’s nationally televised game. Our offense is very much predicated on his ability to free up Walker for open shots or drives to the basket. We don’t give him enough credit for what he brings to this team offensively but his absence changes a lot of what we do on this end of the court.
Early on, Batum and Kemba struggled to get anything going. Offensively, Kidd-Gilchrist played the biggest role. He was able to get easy buckets after his relentless effort on the offensive boards — had five on the night. He was also very active in cutting the basket where Kemba found him on several occasions at the rim. He continues to prove that his mid-range shot is on the upward trend and he even hit three from that area tonight.
One area in which the Hornets failed was with protecting the ball. In the first half alone, Charlotte turned the ball over 9 times stifling any flow that they had going.
The third quarter, like so many, was Charlotte’s best quarter. The ball was moving and Batum started to find his rhythm. After a sub par first half, he scored 8 points on 75% shooting in the 3rd quarter. Kemba also sparked the offense in the quarter, where he played all 12 minutes, by attacking the rim and stroking his jumper with confidence. He scored 12 in the 3rd.
Charlotte showed a lot of grit and battled for most of the fourth quarter. Down the stretch, players allowed the the calls to affect their play. That coupled with Golden State’s increased intensity on defense only resulted in more frustration.
I was actually surprised with how well this offense played without the help of Zeller.
Coming into this game, we knew that defending this team would be a handful. They have stars all over the court and the two biggest ones came to play tonight.
One of the issues early on, that I noticed, was the way Charlotte struggled to defend the pick and rolls. When Hibbert was out on the court, it made defending the 1-5 screens a challenge. With the Warriors’ shooters, the screener’s man must hedge hard. With Kemba fighting over the screen and Hibbert sagging behind, which he did on many occasions, Curry would take the shot with no defender in sight. This is why, when Hawes was out there, the pick and roll defense improved, even if slightly.
In the final period. the Hornets’ defense struggled to contain Kevin Durant. He was able to get almost any shot he wanted, whether that be at the rim or in mid-range. He only missed once in the quarter, scoring 16 points in all. I will say that the Warriors got some favorable calls late and scored 14 of 15 from the line in the fourth. The issue was that Charlotte allowed the ref’s whistle to affect their play on both ends and their transition defense suffered as a result. Instead of getting back on defense, some members moped and complained. It was frustrating for the fans, so I can only imagine how it was for the players on the court.
The Hornets battled but suffered another loss to a top-tier opponent, a monkey they are still trying to get off their back.
Friday. Jan. 27th – @ New York Knicks – 7:30 p – Fox SportSouth