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Unlikely Heroes Key In Hornets Win

Feb 05, 2015 -- 10:53pm

Thursday night Clifford’s Hornets did just that defeating the Washington Wizards for the second time in four nights 94-87 inside of Time Warner Cable Arena.

After Wednesday’s practice Steve Clifford made it clear that his team would have to defend and rebound if they wanted to win games, tonight they won the battle on the boards 50-38 and only allowed 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Just how good was their defense tonight? Wizards guard John Wall was held to only two points in the second half.

“They’re a great transition team, in the first half we got opportunities to get some misses and push the pace and they made shots in the second half,” said Wall. They started trapping more and trying to get the ball out of my hands.”

Jason Maxiell was a big spark off the bench with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks. His seven blocks was a career-high for the 9-year veteran out of Cincinnati.

“Well you know with an old guy like myself it’s not about how high you can jump, it’s about stopping the ball at the rim,” said Maxiell when asked about his effort defending at the rim.

Charlotte is now .500 at home improving to 13-13 on the season, defending your homecourt is always important.

Gerald Henderson finished with a game-high 27 points, 13 of those came in the first quarter.

There was a point when the Hornets trailed 11 in the third quarter, and it didn’t look good, but that’s when Brian Roberts made an appearance. Roberts’ 12 points all came in the second half, including a crossover and 20-foot jumper on Wall in the fourth quarter that put Charlotte ahead 90-83 with 1:36 remaining.

In the first half the Hornets didn’t play despite only trailing five.

“Gerald and Lance made shots, and that’s the only reason we had the points we had,” said Clifford. “We had no energy, we played with little purpose the ball didn’t move, and our defense we’re lucky they missed shots because they played better than we did.”

In the second half Charlotte played their game, outscoring Washington 45-33, with the big fourth quarter of 25 points.

“We made some plays on the defensive end, and guys hit some shots on the other end,” said Henderson when asked about the turnaround in the second half.

Henderson was great with 27 points, but the unlikely heroes of Maxiell and Roberts were the big reason why the Hornets came out on top when the clock hit zero.

Charlotte can’t afford to come out sluggish to start games as the season progresses, but when they defend and rebound at a high level they’re a handful for any team.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Hornets/Wizards Preview

Feb 04, 2015 -- 6:01pm

Tuesday night the Hornets traveled to Washington in a meeting that many didn’t think Charlotte would win, but behind 18 points from Brian Roberts and Al Jefferson they took home the victory.

That victory Tuesday night was not only the best win for the Hornets in Kemba Walker’s absence, but arguably their best win of the season.

Charlotte is 6-2 since losing Walker to a torn meniscus, coach Steve Clifford deserves some credit for the way his ball club is playing.

Tonight John Wall and the Wizards will be looking for revenge against their fellow divisional opponent.

Washington is currently riding a four-game losing streak, and this sets up for another winnable game for the Hornets despite the Wizards being the third best team in the Eastern Conference.

In the 92-88 victory for Charlotte five Hornets were in double-figures scoring, that’s a sign of everyone being involved and good ball movement. The defense was also a factor in the win, Washington averages 100 points per game, Charlotte held them to 88 points on 41 percent shooting.

“To win in this league, you have to be good at something,” were the words of Clifford following team’s Wednesday morning practice. “Our chance to be good at defending and rebounding and then how far the offense can go will determine how good we get.”

That defense that I touched on earlier is ranked fifth in the NBA allowing only 97 points per game. Their 44 rebounds per game is good enough for 10th in the NBA.

If the Hornets can continue to follow “Clifford’s Recipe” they’ll have a chance to at least make a push for the sixth seed that’s currently occupied by the Milwaukee Bucks.

A win for Charlotte Thursday night would put the Hornets at .500 inside of Time Warner Cable on the season, they currently are 12-13 at home.

The Hornets are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference at 21-27.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Hornets/Spurs Preview

Jan 27, 2015 -- 7:52pm

For some odd reason the Hornets just can’t beat the San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte has lost the last seven meetings when they travel to Texas dating back to Nov. 15, 2006.

The Hornets are in a tough spot after winning 9 of their last 11, they lose their starting point guard Kemba Walker to a torn meniscus in his left knee that will have him sidelined for a minimum of six-weeks.

Despite losing Walker, head coach Steve Clifford is still confident in his team’s ability to win games.

"If we continue to defend, rebound the ball the way we have and not turn the ball over, then to me we have more than enough to keep playing well," said Clifford.

Are the odds in favor of Charlotte defeating San Antonio? No, but if the Hornets play their game, they’ll have a chance to win it late in the fourth quarter.

Brian Roberts returns to a familiar position, back as a starting point guard. Roberts started 42 games last season for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Roberts has played well for Charlotte coming off the bench averaging 6.8 points on 42 percent shooting. He hasn’t seen significant playing time due to Walker playing out of mind of the past two months, but that doesn’t mean Roberts can’t answer the bell.

Tonight will be the first of a three-game road trip starting with the Spurs, then traveling to Denver and wrapping up the road trip in Washington. The Hornets are currently sitting eighth in the Eastern Conference, they can’t afford to drop all three games. At the worst they win in Denver and fall to San Antonio and Washington, those are respectable losses.

Both teams will be going into the matchup with fresh legs after having some time off, that bolds well for the Spurs not Charlotte.

I won’t put too much stock in the Hornets losing or winning it’s just another game, but Clifford and Hornets fans would like to see the team put a fight, rather than the effort put forth in Cleveland well they were blown out 129-90.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

When Will Charlotte Catch A Break?

Jan 26, 2015 -- 10:30pm

News broke Tuesday afternoon that Hornets’ point guard Kemba Walker will be having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee that will likely sideline him for a minimum of six-weeks.

When will Charlotte catch a break?

 “Oh it’s a hit,” said coach Steve Clifford when asked how much it would hurt if Walker missed significant time.

Backup point guard Brian Roberts is capable of running the show for the likely 18-game absence, but it won’t be easy to replace 18.8 points in the scoring column that Walker is responsible for.

“He’s been by far our best player.” [In] basketball they’re only five guys playing, and it always start at the top of your roster,” said Clifford.

Al Jefferson is the team’s best player, but Walker is atop Charlotte’s roster with his ability to organize and score.

With a record of 19-26 the Hornets are currently sitting eighth in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.

This is not the season many expected after winning 43 games earning the seventh seed in the playoffs, the stint was short lived due to a sweep by the hands of LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Everyone on Charlotte’s roster has been hurt from Bismack Biyombo to third-string point guard Jannero Pargo.

The Hornets could possibly be sixth or seventh in the East if they didn’t have to fight the injury bug.

Just when Charlotte started stringing together victories taking care of the winnable games on their schedule going 9-2 over their past 11 games, they lose their starting point guard in the process.

Over that stretch Clifford’s team has followed the blueprint for them to win; averaging 95 points, defend and rebound, then last but not least not turn the ball over.

For the season the Hornets are averaging 95 points per game, they rank ninth in the NBA grabbing 44 rebounds per game and they rank eighth in the NBA in points allowed at 97 points per game.

Through 45 games Jefferson has missed nine games, Lance Stephenson has missed 14 and its likely Walker will miss around 18 games.

In order to be successful in this league you have to stay healthy, Charlotte hasn’t been great when healthy, but just when it looked like things were trending upwards the injury bug strikes again.

If Clifford manages to keep this team afloat during Walker’s absence, that’ll be nothing short of impressive.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Hornets/Heat Preview

Jan 20, 2015 -- 8:03pm

Wednesday night Charlotte, who’s 7-3 over the last 10 games will welcome divisional foe Miami Heat who’s 4-6 over their last 10 to Time Warner Cable Arena.

Eric Spoelstra's ballclub is coming off of a 94-86 lost in Oklahoma City, then has to turn around and fly to Charlotte.

In two games of a four game series, the series is 1-1 with both teams protecting their homecourt.

Despite both teams ranking in the bottom tier of the league in points per game, there is one thing the two teams do and that’s play defense at a high level. The Hornets are ranked ninth, and the Heat are fourth when it comes to points allowed on the defensive end in the NBA.

Charlotte will have to continue to rebound and defend at a high level if they want to have a chance to win. The Hornets have held nine of their last 10 opponents to under 100 points scoring, that’s a statistic that coach Steve Clifford would like to see continue.

Charlotte will be able to throw Gerald Henderson and Lance Stephenson at Dwayne Wade on the defensive end, Wade's averaging 22 points per game on the season. Henderson has continued to thrive in his starting role, and Stephenson is showing that he can be a piece moving forward, rather than being dangled as trade bait.

The Hornets will have Kemba Walker back alongside Al Jefferson, who's playing in his second game since returning from injury.

Charlotte has played well despite the competition not being amongst the league’s best, Miami will be a good test as the Hornets try to get that eighth seed. Charlotte is currently half a game out of eighth, meanwhile the Heat seventh and two games ahead of the Hornets.

What will be the narrative after Wednesday night's game?

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Hornets/Spurs Preview

Jan 13, 2015 -- 6:02pm

Last season Charlotte gave San Antonio everything they could handle, despite losing 104-100 inside of Time Warner Cable Arena.

Wednesday night will be the first meeting of two between the two teams.

The good news is that Lance Stephenson will return to the lineup, but Al Jefferson still remains sidelined.

Both teams are very similar on the defensive end ranking 12th and 13th, respectively, in points allowed per game, but offensively the two don’t compare, the Spurs are averaging 102 points per game that's good enough for 10th in the NBA to the Hornets 96 that ranks 23rd in the league.

Despite San Antonio being the favorite, they’ll be coming off the first night of a back-to-back against Washington, who’s sitting third in the Eastern Conference and 16-4 at home.

It is very possible that Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich could sit Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker, I doubt all three of them play Wednesday night, but don’t quote me on it Popovich is a tough guy to read.

The approach remains the same for coach Steve Clifford’s Hornets, play with the right purpose and effort which is a must, then score in the mid-90s and their defense should be good enough to secure the win.

Win or lose the overreaction of Stephenson’s performance will be the talk throughout Charlotte. If he plays well they’ll say he can’t keep it up, and if they lose they’ll be screaming trade him for ending the five-game winning streak. If we’re being realistic he’ll play anywhere from 18-25 minutes if that. Yes, the Hornets have been playing better in his absence, but if they want to be looked at a serious playoff contending team they’ll have to learn to play better with him in the lineup, rather him being out. It’s easy to point the finger at Stephenson, but Charlotte will need him as they’re currently  on the outside looking in at the top-eight seeds in the Eastern Conference.

 

Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

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