Yikes. After entering the playoffs with their highest seed in 14 years, there were truckloads of optimism piled onto the Charlotte Hornets this week. This was supposed to be the year the Hornets finally won a playoff series. After looking like a JV team on South Beach over the course of the first two games against the Miami Heat, the hope now is that they can merely win their first playoff game since defeating Tracy McGrady’s Orlando Magic in 2002. Ouch.
All hope is not lost, however. This Hornets squad is a resilient bunch, led by their steady head coach, Steve Clifford. Clifford knows, too, that Erik Spoelstra and the Heat aren’t throwing anything at the Hornets that they cannot handle. Charlotte is simply getting outplayed on both ends of the floor.
Clifford after Game 2: “If we need to make an adjustment, we’ll make it. But this isn’t they’re running stuff that we’re having trouble guarding. We’ve got to keep the ball out of the middle. We’ve got to be cleaner with our basic coverages. We’ve got to make sure we’re not turning the ball over and staying organized on offense.”
Sounds simple enough, right? Just play better. Fortunately for Hornets fans, that’s exactly what the team has done when taking the court at home, in Time Warner Cable Arena, this season. Below is some Hornets buzz about the wretched start to this series, and the glimmer of hope that remains.
- Who kidnapped Marvin Williams?! Hide your eyes, kids. After posting his best scoring average this year since the 2008-09 season with the Atlanta Hawks, Marvin has kicked off this playoff campaign by conducting a masonry demonstration. Averaging 11.7 per game during the regular season, the stretch-4 has bricked 16 of his first 17 shot attempts, including all four from long distance.
- Speaking of three-pointers, what on earth has happened to the Hornets’ ability to score from deep? Some of this must be credited to the Heat’s ability to run shooters off the three-point line, knowing that shot-blocker extraordinaire, Hassan Whiteside, lurks beneath. But good grief, Charlotte! After hitting 6 of their 17 attempts in Game 1, the Hornets proceeded to drop in just 1-of-16 in Game 2.
- I’ve mentioned this before, but for a team ranked fourth in the league in points from the three-ball this season, Charlotte desperately needs more output from this aspect of their offense.
- Want some more uplifting news? The best all-around player on the Hornets roster, Nic Batum, severely rolled his ankle in the fourth quarter, leaving coach Clifford “very concerned"about the swingman’s availability going forward.
- Don’t fault Kemba Walker or Al Jefferson for the lack of offensive production, though. The duo is averaging a combined 43 points per game in the playoffs.
- Al’s return to form, in particular, has been much needed. The Hornets were miraculously ranked second to last in the league in points in the paint this year. I know Cody Zeller isn't Wilt Chamberlain, but jeez.
- The lone bright spot? Charlotte won 73% of their games at home this season, including 16 of the last 19. None were bigger, however, than the two games they’ll play this weekend.