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Losing Streak Continues as Hornets Lose 105-98 to Jazz + Weekly Preview

Photo: George Frey – AP

It’s been a brutal stretch for the Charlotte Hornets and it continued last night with a loss to the Utah Jazz. In the past 7 games, all which they have lost, the Hornets have an offensive rating of 104.2 (23rd) and defensive rating of 114.2 (28th). While the Hornets played much better against the Jazz than in previous games, some of the same issues reared its head.

The Hornets started off hot and opened to a 16-6 lead. Most of this was in part to Frank Kaminsky, who made his seventh start of the season. The Hornets used him in pick and pops and he accounted for 10 of the first 12 points the Hornets scored. Utah was sloppy with the ball and came away with empty possessions early in the first. The Jazz picked up their play late in the first and early in the second with upped defense and ball movement. This span, which the Jazz went on a 15-0 run, came with our bench unit of Roberts, Belinelli, Lamb, Plumlee, and starter Kidd-Gilchrist on the court. The issues of the bench unit have been widely discussed and it was on full display in this five-minute spell.

The Hornets put together one of their patented third quarters, which we were more accustomed to seeing in the first half of the season, and outscored the Jazz 38-21. In this quarter, the Hornets shot lights-out from deep, making 8 of 12. Kemba, who was off for most of the night, tallied 12 of his 18 points in this quarter. Charlotte took a lead into the fourth and it looked like the six game losing streak could end in Utah. Charlotte went on a run to begin the quarter and even had 10 point lead with a little over eight minutes to play. The offensive stalled and in the last eight minutes, the away team only shot 16% from the field, while the Jazz went on a 23-6 run to end the game. The Hornets fell for the seventh straight time and this one ended in disappointing fashion.

Offense

The offense with Frank Kaminsky as your center looks quite different than with Zeller. Things can get going towards the rim but it’s not as easy. A lot of what Frank did, especially early on, was working the pick and pops. After setting the screens for Kemba, he’d drift out towards the three-point line for open looks. Kaminksy’s arsenal was on full display in the first. He made two three-pointers, hit a turnaround jumper with the smaller Hayward guarding him, and drove to the basket after a nice spin move.
 
Marvin Williams was the steadiest player on the night — scoring 16 points on 50% shooting — and integral to the third quarter turnaround. Kemba, on the other hand, struggled for the majority of the night. He missed layups that he usually would make and only ended up shooting 35% from the field. The new guy, Miles Plumlee, didn’t do anything notable but you could tell his style fits much better than our previous backup centers. He can get up and down the court and when he sets screens, he runs to the rim creating separation. He did finish with 8 rebounds, two of them on the offensive end, in only 18 minutes.
 

Defense

I thought the defense played well for most of this game. They were active with both their feet and hands. Plumlee’s fit can again be seen on this end of the court. On pick and roll defense, both Hibbert and Hawes could only come out so far, as they risked having to close the space behind them. Plumlee, while still trying to build up his stamina, demonstrated that he can hedge aggressively with pick and rolls and still be quick enough to recover.

The biggest downside on this end of the court was collecting defensive rebounds. Gobert and the Jazz snagged 11 offensive rebounds leading to 17 second chance points. While Gobert averages four offensive boards a game, not having a true center made this feat a little easier.

Next Up

vs. Brooklyn, Tuesday 2/7
After an 0-3 road trip, Charlotte returns home against the last place Nets. If there’s any game that the Hornets need to win for their psyche, it’s this one. The Hornets and the Nets are the only two teams that haven’t recorded a win in their last 7 games. Interesting enough, the Hornets last win came back on January 21 against this same team.
 
We know that Brooklyn likes to push the pace and chuck a lot of threes. Although Brook Lopez is having a “down” year, he’s still scoring 20 points a game and has extended his range out to the three-point line. He is attempting almost five threes a game, something that hasn’t been in his game in previous seasons. This draws bigs away from the basket and opens things up in the paint. If we defend the three well, something that we haven’t done against Brooklyn, we should be able to bookend this losing streak with two wins against the Nets.
 
vs. Houston, Thursday 2/9
We take on another familiar opponent with one of the most potent offenses in the league. The Rockets bested us in our only other meeting of the season, 121-114. Like the Nets, the Rockets live by the three-point shot. They attempt close to 40 a game and convert on 36% of them. With players like Gordon, Anderson, and Harden — averaging 29 points, 11 assists, and 8 rebounds — Charlotte will have their hands full.
 
Last outing, the Rockets came out strong from the field and the Hornets needed a comeback to make the game respectable. The key in keeping this game competitive is transition defense. Houston is 4th in the league in fast break points and Charlotte has struggled at times in marking men in transition. Charlotte allowed the Rockets to score 25 fast break points, well over their average, in the January loss.
 
vs. Los Angeles Clippers, Saturday 2/11
The Hornets have not played the Clippers yet on the season but will do so twice in a 15-day spell. The Clippers have a high-powered offense led by Chris Paul (injured), Blake Griffin, and JJ Redick. A common theme among this week’s opponents is the threat from deep. The Clippers, while not on Brooklyn’s or Houston’s level in attempts, shoot the fourth-best percentage from deep at 38%.
 
Defending the Clippers will also require attention to DeAndre Jordan in the pick and roll game. The Clippers love to get him involved as he scores 1.53 points per possession as a roll man. The Clippers’ scheme also includes heavy isolations plays for players like Crawford and Rivers. While this may not be the most efficient form of offense, Charlotte needs to be aware that it’s in their offensive DNA.
 
The biggest obstacle and area of focus will be playing defense without fouling. As a team, the Hornets do not commit many, but the Clippers draw the most and have the league’s best free throw rate. Something will have to give Saturday night in the Spectrum Center.
 

Podcast: ABPN’s Around the NBA

Buzz Beat had the opportunity to host Almighty Baller’s first “Around the NBA” podcast. We brought on other podcasters in the network — James Holas from The Truth, Derek Perez from Dig In Nuggets, and Daniel Green of DG Courtroom.
 
We discused the Hornets trade for Miles Plumlee and how the Hornets will approach the deadline. The other guests shared their opinion on the trade and if the Hornets would be buyers or sellers as we approach the deadline on February 23. If you are a fan of the Hornets or the NBA in general, this is a must listen!