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Charlotte's Losing Pattern

Dec 18, 2014 -- 12:24am

When Al Jefferson was asked if he could put into words the feeling of blowing a 17-point lead to eventually lose 111-106 to the Phoenix Suns, “I can’t put it into words,” said Jefferson.

When you’re 6-19 as a team, you are what you record says you are, and the Charlotte Hornets are not a very good basketball team.

At this point last season coach Steve Clifford’s ball club was 10-14, but those 10 wins were against non-playoff teams, this season the schedule was not in their favor and that’s evident.

“Right now we aren’t good at offense nor defense,” were the words of Clifford addressing the media after the loss.

Blame can be placed on from everyone General Manager Rich Cho to new addition Lance Stephenson, but the only thing people care about are wins and losses. The Hornets have very few wins and a column full of losses.

Wednesday night Charlotte welcomed Phoenix, a team riding a six-game losing streak.

Sounds like a win for Clifford’s Hornets right?

Through three quarters and half of basketball that seemed to be the case, but after a bad pass from Gary Neal that led to an Eric Bledsoe layup giving the Suns a 104-103 lead at the 1:47 mark in the fourth quarter, Phoenix never trailed again.

Down the stretch Charlotte’s poor late game execution plagued them once again, the Hornets had three consecutive possessions of no movement forcing Kemba Walker to dribble the duration of the 24-second shot clock ending in a missed basketball or a turnover.

“We’re losing the same way multiple times,” said Walker when asked about the losing pattern. “It’s a tough thing to do, it’s a tough thing to keep on doing, but that’s just the way things are going right now.”

That consistent pattern falls on both the players and coaches.

Clifford addressed not calling a timeout with 19 seconds remaining on the clock with the ball in their possession, “That’s my fault,” said Clifford. “There was confusion on their part, and that’s obviously my responsible.”

The blame can be distributed equally, but if you let the national guys and some members of the local media tell it all of the blame falls of Stephenson, and that’s not the case. Tonight he was not the reason for the loss, he left the game at the 3:29 mark in the fourth due to a groin contusion when the Hornets were leading 102-99.

Neither the playing nor coaching has been great down the stretch, and the Hornets’ record is a clear indicator of that.

Despite Charlotte’s record, they’ve been in the majority of the games they’ve lost. Only five of their 19 losses were blowouts.

“But we’ve got to do better obviously when the game’s on the line,” said Clifford.

That’s been the story of the Hornets’ season through 25 games.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Charlotte's Two-Game Winning Streak

Dec 11, 2014 -- 12:24pm

“You can tell when you walk into the locker room, the guys are happy,” were the words of Hornets coach Steve Clifford addressing the media following Wednesday night’s game against the Celtics.

Don’t blink now, but the Charlotte Hornets are on a two-game winning streak.

Last night Charlotte defeated Boston 96-87 inside of Time Warner Cable Arena, led by Al Jefferson who scored 11 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter did not let this win get away. He also had one of his best games on the board recording 14 rebounds.

It wasn’t the most exciting brand of basketball on display, but it was good enough for a Hornets win.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist made his return from a stress reaction that sidelined him for 12-games, in his 19 minutes of action, MKG looked good being aggressive when attacking the rim and being tenacious on the defensive end. He finished with nine points and six rebounds.

“I was anxious to get back, I just to thank my teammates for their patience,” said Kidd-Gilchrist. “We got the win and that’s the only thing that matters at the end of the day.”

For a Charlotte team that was struggling, to string together two-straight victories is a step in the right direction, coming off a 10-game losing skid.

What’s hindered this ball club through a quarter of the season was their inability to win close games, they’ve executed at a higher rate over this two-game span.

The Hornets travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies on Friday night, a team they played tough earlier in the season despite falling 71-69.

I expect a pretty good ball game now that Charlotte has everyone back from injury, it’ll be interesting to see if they can get a win on a road.

Winning cures all, we’ll see what the Hornets have in store for Memphis on Friday and Brooklyn on Saturday, at the worst I can see them going 1-1 over the two-game stretch.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

College Football Wins

Dec 07, 2014 -- 10:43pm

We all know college football and the NFL split time dominating the headlines on the weekends with college football owning Saturdays and the NFL claiming Sundays, but this weekend belonged to college football.

The top-six seeds were all in action over the weekend, Oregon vs. Arizona started off the amazing slate of games on Friday, with the Florida State vs. Georgia Tech as the primetime Saturday night game.

All of the favorites won, leading to controversial Sunday coming as to who was going to be the fourth team in the CFB Playoff. Alabama, Oregon and Florida State were locked in as the top-three seeds winning their respective conference championship games.

Who was going to get that the fourth and final spot? Would it be TCU, Baylor or Ohio State?

Ohio State was the fourth team to slide into the fourth spot, beating out TCU and Baylor who were ranked higher, but ultimately the two cancelled each other out because of the Big-12’s lack of a conference championship game.

TCU, Baylor and Ohio State all had compelling arguments of why they should be the fourth team, but the committee felt that Ohio State’s 59-0 routing of 13th ranked Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game with a third-string quarterback in Cardale Jones leading the Buckeyes to victory.

What led to the national outcry was the fact that going into the weekend, TCU was ranked third, Baylor was fourth and Ohio State was fifth. In the end Ohio State jumped both TCU and Baylor to get to third. Baylor remained at fifth despite beating ninth Kansas State 38-27 and TCU fell to sixth after blowing out Iowa State 55-3 TCU.

ESPN had analysts debating who would be in that fourth spot from the time the ACC Championship Game ended up to the conclusion of ESPN’s College Football Playoff Section Show 2014.

Drama is what both college football and ESPN would be hoping for, and drama was delivered. People began clamoring about an eight-team playoff, but personally when the playoff does expand, going to six teams would be better than eight. With six teams the top two seeds getting a bye. Eight teams would be watering down the playoff.

Just imagine how much money college football would generate?

If the playoffs were six teams Alabama and Orgeon would get the bye, Florida State would play Baylor and Ohio State would play TCU.

No need to go any further on what isn't going to occur, we'll tackle the issue of expansion when that time comes.

The headlines going into the first ever college football playoff will be needle movers for sure. Arguably the top-two coaches in college football today in Nick Saban versus Urban Meyer meeting in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl will be a good one despite Ohio State brining their third-string quarterback to face an aggressive Kirby Smart defense. Then you'll have the 2013 Heisman trophy winner in Jameis Winston against the likely 2014 Heisman winning quarterback in Marcus Mariota, the sun will shine bright on New Years Day inside the Rose Bowl. It'll be like a home game for Oregon which will favor the Ducks, but Florida State is on a 29-game winning streak, that's the longest active in college football.

You might not agree with Ohio State getting the fourth spot, but one thing you can’t ignore is that on 12:45 p.m. ET, college football had your undivided attention with the unveiling on the final College Football Playoff Rankings.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 College Football Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes 

Charlotte's Not So Hot Start

Nov 20, 2014 -- 11:06am

Lance Stephenson’s return to Indiana didn’t go exactly as planned, ending with a Solomon Hill put-back as time expired giving the Pacers the edge over Charlotte 88-86, but neither has the start of the season for the Hornets gone as planned.

Late game execution has plagued coach Steve Clifford’s ball club.

Through 12 games the Hornets just have not played good basketball.

Of the four wins they do have the best one came against Miami when they played four quarters of basketball, ending a three-game losing streak.

Injuries have played a role in Charlotte’s inconsistent play, having Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gary Neal miss time in varies games.

18 games in 32 days doesn’t help when you have new additions and a lack of practice time.

Despite those injuries and tough slate of games, you just can’t shoot yourself in the foot when you aren’t one of the more “talented” teams in the league. In two losses against New York and Portland, Charlotte turned the ball over for a combined 13 times in the fourth quarter, that’s something you just can’t do. They also had a chance to beat Memphis, but in two late game possessions it was evident they forgot to play defense failing to secure a win.

Al Jefferson has played well thus far, but his counterparts in Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson have struggled to find some consistency.

In their eight losses, four could have been won in the fourth quarter, as for the other four losses those just weren’t competitive.

The Hornets rank in the bottom half of the league in points scored, points allowed rebounds and assists per game. That top-five defense that was on displayed last season has yet to come into fruition.

Good teams find ways to win the 50/50 games second-year head coach Clifford and his Hornets are still in the process of learning how to win games.

Of Charlotte’s six upcoming games, one is a possible win and even that one isn’t guaranteed. The Hornets welcome Orlando in a winnable game, but after that Charlotte goes to Miami (whom they beat earlier in the year) then they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland and Golden State come to Time Warner Cable Arena . After that four-game stretch, they get Atlanta who they also beat in double-overtime, we’ll see if they steal a victory on the road, but that doesn’t look so promising with Charlotte being 1-6 on the road.

It’s still too early to dive for the panic button, but if something doesn’t change for the better the Hornets could find themselves in a familiar position as the Bobcats, searching for wins.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Clifford's Recipe

Nov 07, 2014 -- 10:48am

If you know anything about Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, you know of his recipe for success.

“We’ll have to win by rebounding, defending and being smart,” that has been Clifford’s recipe since becoming the Hornets head coach in the summer of 2013.

Through five games the Hornets are 2-3.

In Charlotte’s two victories against Milwaukee and Miami, the Hornets won the rebounding and assist battle, not folding in crunch time when the game could go either way.

The Hornets had to rally from 24 down in the third quarter to win in overtime to beat Milwaukee, but in that rally they won both the rebounding and assist battle, recording 50 rebounds, that's been was their best rebounding game on the season.

Against Miami, Charlotte played their best game through five games, winning the rebounding and assist battle. The fourth ranked defense in the NBA showed up, only giving 89 points to good Miami Heat team. Cody Zeller and PJ Hairston provided a spark off the bench combing for 20 points 10 assists.

After the win Walker, who played a very efficient game of 18 points on five-of-six shooting and seven assists wasn’t too high nor low following the victory.

“We have a lot of potential on this team, we just haven’t been showing it,” was Walker’s comments on losing the three-game losing skid.

In Charlotte’s three losses against Memphis, New York and New Orleans, the Hornets won either the rebounding or assist battle, or lost both. Not only did they not commit to both rebounding and assists, but down the stretch they also missed the message of playing smart.

 “What’s frustrating is if we defend in the last three minutes we win the game,” were the words of Clifford following the loss to Memphis.

In the post-game press conference following the defeat to Memphis, I’ve never witnessed Clifford so visibly frustrated with his team.

When Charlotte traveled to Madison Square Garden to face the Knicks, the message of being smart didn’t travel. Walker had a chance to send the game into overtime missing a 16-foot jumper, but when you commit seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, you can’t expect to win.

The New Orleans game wasn’t a good one to say the least. The Hornets lost both the rebounding and assist battle, allowing Austin River to score 12 points. Rivers easy layups contributed to the 48 points in the paint Charlotte allowed, that tells you everything you need to know about how that night went.

Clifford’s message continues to grow legs, despite being five games into a long 82-game NBA season.

The Hornets welcome the Hawks tonight, let's see if they can add some consistency, and stick to Clifford's Recipe.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

Charlotte's Opening Night Thriller

Oct 30, 2014 -- 12:18pm

On the eve of Kemba Walker’s four-year contract extension worth $48 million, Walker hit back shot after big shot, with the most important one coming in the overtime with five seconds to go when he hit the 21-foot jumper with five seconds remaining to give the Hornets the 108-106 win.

By looking at the final score you’ll never know that there was a point during Charlotte’s season-opener against the Milwaukee Bucks when the Hornets trailed by 24 points 74-50 at the 6:33 mark in the third quarter, the fans let the players know of their disapproval with some boos of their own.

Despite being down by 24, that never give up attitude the Bobcats possessed carried over to the Hornets.

The 19,439 fans inside of Time Warner Cable Arena experience everything on opening night from frustration to exuberance.

When coach Clifford was asked how his ballclub was able to rally, “NBA games are 48 minutes, and our guys understand that.”

It wasn’t the prettiest game for free-agent signee Lance Stephenson, who finished with seven points on three-of-12 shooting, but he impacted the game in other ways 13 rebounds and eight assists.

“If I’m not scoring I’m going to do other things, I’m going to pass, rebound and play a little defense,” said Stephenson.

Walker didn’t have his best shooting night going nine-of-26 from the field, but the most important stat of his night, wasn’t the two big jumpers he made, but the zero turnovers he committed.

I’m not a big fan of my point guard taking 26 shots, I would like to see that number scaled down drastically, but what makes him special is despite struggling from the field when his number was called upon he delivered, hitting the shot to send the game into overtime, and the game-winner in overtime.

Milwaukee made it difficult for the 2014 All-NBA third team member Al Jefferson to get into a groove, going six-of-15 with 14 points.

I will say this Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were the guys that impressed me the most. We all know Williams isn’t the passer Josh McRoberts is, but the guy can shoot it going eight-of-12 with 19 points, connecting on three from downtown. Kidd-Gilchrist, who’s has been the talk of the summer with his new and improved jumper did not disappoint, with 17 points on six-of eight shooting, the confidence was evident in his game last night.

Coming off the bench Cody Zeller did exactly what he was suppose to do providing a spark with 11 points in 20 minutes.

The win for Hornets marks the largest comeback in Charlotte NBA history, rallying from 24.

It’s a long NBA season with 81 regular season games on the Hornet’s schedule, but what thing Charlotte can be proud of is that they started the season off with a win.


Justin Thomas

ESPN 730 Charlotte Hornets Reporter and Blogger

Twitter:  @JTyree704

Facebook:  Facebook.com/SportsFromMyEyes

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