Buzz Words | Hornets Playoff Notebook
Hornets Hold Exit Interviews with Media
Matt Rochinski of hornets.com will be following the Hornets throughout the playoffs and keeping fans up to day through his Buzz Words | Hornets Playoff Notebook. Keep checking back to see what the latest is as the Hornets look to advance.
Monday, May 2, 2:03 p.m.
The Charlotte Hornets held their end of season exit interviews on May 2 at Time Warner Cable Arena. The following are some of the best quotes of the day. Make sure to check out our Hornets Exit Interview Social Quotes too!
HEAD COACH STEVE CLIFFORD
On his initial thoughts of the season:
“I have two thoughts without having a lot of time to really reflect on the season. There is always going to be a certain level of disappointment when the season ends unless you win it and obviously we didn’t win it. If you go back to, say last Friday, with a chance to win a series and then not doing that [is disappointing]. What none of us can run from, and more than anyone else, me because I’m the head coach. This league is about winning in the playoffs, that’s it. That’s what pro sports is about. It’s a bottom-line business. It [winning in the playoffs] changes things for an organization, for a city, for a head coach, a coaching staff and for the players that’s it. We weren’t able to do that. It’s frustrating, disappointing… Once everyone has a chance to get away and reflect on that, their part in it, but certainly the person with the biggest part in that is me. I have to study so that when we get the next opportunity, we’re better. With that being said, it is very difficult for me to not feel really good about our team and what they did this year. It was a group that when it came together, you go all the way back to September, nobody even thought we were a playoff team. If you want to go back to the Vegas lines, we were 34 wins over-under so the only guys that thought we were good were us. Nobody else, nobody else, nobody. This isn’t like people were saying they are pretty good and we were very good, people were saying they’re not very good at all and we were very, very good. So to win 48 games, which is no easy thing and you can never take it for granted. They did a great job. To be down 2-0 against that team… And I chuckle, I was reading a couple things about talent, they [Miami] got a hall-of-famer [in Dwayne Wade], they got Joe Johnson a perennial all-star, they got the best shot-blocker in the NBA [in Hassan Whiteside]. That’s a very talented team. What our guys did in games three, four, and five are three game to be proud of, for any group of guys to play. The last two [games] we were disappointing but that’s reality. The last thing I would say about our group is we won for the right reasons. This league is about superstars, we have a bunch of really good players that play defense. [We were] ninth in the league, offense, ninth in the league [defense] because we played the right way. They shared the ball, they played for each other and they were ready to play with as much intensity and purpose every-night as any team in this league, and that I am very proud of. Are we disappointed? Mightily, mightily but I just have a hard time, as I told them this morning, walking away from this and not feeling very proud of how they played, what they did for our organization and the fact that we took a big step forward.”
On Kemba Walker’s improvement this season:
“He’s on his way, now it’s got to be that next step. He did a great job. He’s gone from being say a top-15 point guard to top 10 and he’s done it for all the right reasons, because he works, he’s figured out what his weaknesses are and worked on them. He’s worked with Bruce [Kreutzer] on his shooting, he’s worked with Steve [Hetzel] with his pick-and-roll game which has evolved every year. It just starts with who he is, he’s team first and he’s a good of a competitor as I think there is anywhere. Now they key thing is, as always, the summer is about external development, you know, bringing in players, and then internal development. If you look at why we had a good year, a lot is talked about the moves that we made, and those were key. Also, it was the internal development part. You know Cody Zeller had a great summer, got a lot better. Kemba [Walker] had a great summer, got a lot better. Marvin Williams had a great summer and got better. There’s always that part of it. There is the continuity part where guys know what they have to do in the internal development part where guys try to take their game to another level.”
On how he feels about the roster moving forward this offseason:
“I’d love to have another chance with the same group, obviously that will be difficult. I think if you look at it, it would almost to a man, and again I am saying this knee-jerk and I haven’t had a lot of time to look at it but it would really be hard to point to a guy this year and say he didn’t have a good year. I told them in the first meeting, I know you guys know this… The biggest part of our first meeting was, confront the facts, you think we’re good, I think we’re good, nobody else things we’re good. If you all play the way you’ve played for you whole careers we’re not very good. That’s it. So, Nic Batum had the best year of his career, Marvin Williams I could argue had the best year of his career. Cody Zeller had the best year of his career. Kemba Walker had the best year of his career. Now Al’s [Jefferson] injuries [affected him] Al has played better but not because he wasn’t ready, you know his knee, he just wasn’t himself. Jeremy Lin you could argue in many ways had the best year of his career. Maybe not efficiently, but in terms of playing offense, playing defense. So it’s hard to look at our team and say, boy that guy didn’t play well, they all played well. As a result of that, which is what this is all about from their perspective, those guys are going to get paid. So, would I like to have another chance with the same guys, yes, but will it be possible to do it, it will play out, but I would think it will probably be difficult because guys are going to be rewarded.”
On the overall season:
“I think it is a season to be proud of. At one point we were on a really bad losing streak and [had] a lot of injuries to some key guys. We stuck with it. We pulled off some huge wins. I think at one point we were like, 17-20 and then we finished the season with 48 wins. I don’t think anybody expected that. Nobody even thought we would make the playoffs, so for us to force a Game Seven against a really good team like Miami, we should be really proud. It’s a really disappointing loss, Game Seven, of course, but overall just a really good year for us.”
On teammates returning next year:
“I would love to have every single one of these guys back. It’s been a pleasure playing with these guys. They have great character, they work extremely hard and they kept me sane all year. This is just a really, really good group of guys.”
On the Hornets franchise moving in the right direction:
“I think so. If we get a chance to bring a lot of these guys back we are definitely moving in the right direction. [It’s] just a really great group of guys who work extremely hard. We just got to come in with a solid mindset, like I said, if we get a lot of these guys back, I know they will.”
On the season:
“I don’t think people really expected us to get close to 50 wins, to be tied for the third seed [in the Eastern Conference], especially when MKG [Michael Kidd-Gilchrist] went down in the first preseason game. We had new guys on the team, so that was pretty cool. That was a fun season. We had a chance to move onto the second round and have a closing game at home and we missed out, but that was a pretty cool year anyway. We tried to bring the buzz back to this city. We have unfinished business, but we were right there and I’m sure we will as a team.”
On his ability to show his offensive skill set this season:
“The last two years [with the Portland Trailblazers] we had a great team. We had two All-Stars on that team. We won more than 50 games every time. My role was different with that team. When I came here this year, they [the coaching staff] let me know that they want me to be one of the two first options. And I liked that. I tried to prove them, you were right to trust in me. That was a cool year. I tried to bring my best to bring this team back to the playoffs.”
On what made this season and group special:
“I think it’s a little bit of everything, the city, the organization, the coaching staff and the players too. I mean, we all understand what we have to do to be successful and win games. We have to stick together no matter what. Some teams, guys don’t get along together and especially with a lot of guys in a contract year it can be difficult because people think about their own status and their own stats and stuff like that. I don’t know how many guys we have in a contract-year, maybe five or six, maybe more, but we still had a great year because we didn’t think about that. We just won games, had a great season, had fun together... so that’s what we did this year.”
On if Charlotte will be a top contender for him to sign with:
“Yeah, I think so. I am going to talk to them [the Charlotte Hornets] first for sure. So like I said, it will be a crazy summer, July 1 will be a crazy day. But I think my first goal will be to be here with the Charlotte Hornets.”
On his year in Hornets colors:
“This was the most fun I have had in my six years [in the NBA] by far. It’s not even close in terms of being around a good group of guys [and] a coaching staff that really cares. I’ve learned so much about the game of basketball, especially on the defensive end. I’m just going to remember a lot of the friendships and the memories. We had a fun time off the court and I thought we did a lot on the court as well. Kind of like what I said yesterday, I’m just proud to go to battle with these guys every night. It was really fun and I hope we can do it again.”
On if he wants to come back and play with the Hornets again:
“I definitely want to play with these guys [and] this coach [Steve Clifford]. [When] you bounce around a lot like I have, you see a lot of different organizations and there is definitely a lot of good things I can appreciate about this one in terms of my experience that I didn’t have in other situations. The loss [to the Heat] hurts man, it hurts. I will be thinking about it for a while. If you asked me would I be interested in coming back, there’s no question in my mind, it’s a resounding yes, I would be very interested in coming back.”
On what he and the team learned this season:
“It was a hell-of-an-experience. It’s the playoffs and [that’s] what they are for. No one said it was going to be easy, but we had our chances, especially Game Six. I felt like we were supposed to hammer the nail in as far as winning the series, but it didn’t work out that way and it’s a learning experience. Once you get there [to the playoffs] it’s a whole ‘nother ball game. We should have handled [our] business [in Game Six], but we didn’t. We’ll learn from it and move on. We still don’t have anything to put our head down about. It’s better than the exit meeting last year. Guys got a lot from it.”
On his future with this team:
“You know the answer better than everybody, you know we haven’t talked about that yet. For my personal opinion there is nowhere I would rather be. The last three years have been amazing. I feel like I was a part of it and I want to continue it through, but I know there’s a whole ‘nother business side to it and all that stuff. I would rather be here, I would like to end my career here. To see what Steve [Clifford] has done with this team, [and] Kemba [Walker], they are the reason why I signed here. People thought I was crazy coming here, but I saw what Kemba and Mike [Kidd-Gilchrist] were going to do and I was just happy to be a part of it.”
On possibly returning next year:
“There is no question that I want to return. Obviously, with free agency, anything can happen. With basketball, there is a business side as well. I will let you know that right now, that I want to play with these guys, play with Coach Cliff [Steve Clifford] again. It’s been probably the most fun year I’ve had in my career, playing with a great group of guys who are very fun to play with, very fun to be around. It’s been fun playing for this coaching staff. Obviously I had a better year personally which is really fun as well. So obviously I want to come back."
On keeping a core group of the guys together:
“Yeah, I feel like any time, especially in pro sports, when you keep a group of guys together for three or four years, whatever the case may be, you can do some really good things. Sometimes there is so much change throughout the course of season-to-season to really get steady improvement in basketball or any sport I feel like [is hard]. When you keep a core group of guys together you can really do some things. I was part of a group in Atlanta where four or five of us stayed together for five, six, seven years and we were really able to build something special so hopefully we can do that here.”
On what made this such a fun season:
“Just the guys that I played with. I have never been around a group of guys that are so much fun on and off the court. We had a ton of fun together. Guys would get together... five or six guys going out to eat, I know a lot of guys would go to Bible study. Whatever the case may be, we genuinely enjoy spending time with each other. Throughout the course of the season, when you are around people every day, sometimes you kind of don’t want to see them. But it was really exciting for us to go on the road because we always hung out together. I mean there are guys in the locker room who are talking about hanging out tonight. It’s just the kind of group we had. We had some really great dudes in the organization.”
On the season and joining the team at the trade deadline:
“It was a fun experience coming over midway during the season and having a chance to compete with the guys and fight for a playoff spot. And not only make the playoffs, but then win games in the playoffs. That’s something that hasn’t been done for a while [here]. We was able to get three of them and now it’s just about trying to get everybody back next year and building on that and win a playoff series.”
On if he’d like to be back with the team next season:
“Of course I would like to be. [I] got a chance to build chemistry and friendships with the guys since I’ve been here and it’s been fun playing with them.”
On his first season as a full-time center:
“It’s crazy looking back at the season because at the beginning of the season I was going to be a stretch four. Things changed and the team needed me to be a center. I feel like I embraced the role and made a good year out of it. I got more comfortable as the year went on. It was a lot of fun.”
On what he will be working on this summer:
“Obviously it’s a little bit different playing center. Getting stronger [is a priority]. My body was a little beat up by the end of the year just from banging with those centers all year. Putting on a little strength and working on my game offensively, becoming more of an offensive weapon. I think the strength will improve a lot of different aspects of my game.”
On the Hornets season overall:
“Obviously we would have liked to still be playing, but if you look at the year overall it was a good year for us. I don’t think anyone outside of the locker room expected us to be where we were at. It was a great group of guys, it was a lot of fun to play with those guys, a lot of tough guys. It was fun to compete with [them] every night. I know a lot of guys are free agents but hopefully we have a lot of the same group back next year. Obviously [this season] will give us something to go off of next year.”
Saturday, April 30, 6:13 p.m.
The Hornets headed to Miami for Game 7 on April 30 and are in the right mindset heading into the elimination game.
“I thought they were very good today,” Head Coach Steve Clifford said in his conference call. “We watched a lot of tape. At this stage of the game it’s the same thing really, you’ve got to learn from what happened last night. Again, in the first half we weren’t good defensively, in the second half we were very good. It was the rebounding game and the loose balls (were key). They beat us to every 50-50 ball and they had 19 second-chance points. We were minus-15 on the glass and it’s going to be hard to win like that. It’s going to start with that; offensive purpose and being organized on defense, but we have got to play with a lot more physicality.”
The Hornets will need to get solid contributions from every player who steps on the court if they want to advance. One player whose status is in question is Nicolas Batum, who left game in the second quarter when he re-aggravated his left foot strain and did not return. His status for Game 7 is still up in the air, as he’s listed as questionable on the Hornets injury report.
“Our flight got delayed a little bit, so we just got here and had a film session and he’s going to get more treatment,” Clifford said in his call. “I don’t think we’ll really know for sure until right before the game (if he will play).”
Wednesday, April 26, 11:17 a.m.
Nicolas Batum (foot strain) went through shootaround this morning and expects to play for the Hornets in Game 5, but his minutes may be limited.
"I’m a little sore, but it’s manageable. I’ll be fine for tonight," Batum said after shootaround. "I worked out yesterday and this morning, so my ankle responded well. I should be okay for tonight. It means a lot. When it happened, I thought I’d be done for a couple weeks. A week after, to be back on the court will be pretty cool."
Batum told media that he went to Head Coach Steve Clifford and asked to be used in a reserve role, so as not to change what has worked for the Hornets in Games 3 and 4.
"When I talked to coach after (Game 4) and this morning, I told him I don’t want to mess up the way we’re playing right now because we’re winning, so I asked him to come off the bench," he said. "We’re playing so well right now, I don’t want to mess up what we have. I’m not really 100 percent yet, so I have to be honest with the team and the coaching staff. I just want to go out there and play as much as I can and be as effective as I can… It’s the playoffs. All I want to do with this team is win."
The Hornets know in order to win this series, they will have to win a game in Miami and have their sights set on Game 5, which would give them the chance to wrap up the series in Game 6 on Friday in Charlotte. In order to do so, they'll have to beat a Heat team that has won eight-straight games at American Airlines Arena, dating back to March 19 in the regular season while averaging 113.6 points. The last team to beat the Heat at home? The Charlotte Hornets, who topped the Heat 109-106 on March 17 in Miami.
“I think everybody is focused and locked in,” Courtney Lee said after shootaround. “This is the most important game of the series, because if we can steal one here we’ll have the opportunity to go home and play in front of our crowd on Friday and hopefully come out with a win then and close it out. It would be huge for us, so we’re labeling this the most important game of the series.”
Tuesday, April 26, 7:15 p.m.
The big news coming out of the Hornets optional team workout on April 26 in Miami was that Nicolas Batum was back on the court just six days after suffering a left foot strain that caused him to miss Games 3 and 4 in Charlotte.
“It’s getting way better. I’m really surprised about it,” Batum told hornets.com after testing the injury. “I didn’t think a week ago that I’d be able to run and jump and shoot. I’m really advanced on right now on my rehab. I did some up and down sprints, changed direction, was able to shoot and did some jumping, so I’m feeling way better.”
As with any return from injury, the key for Batum will be to see how the foot responds following the workout. Batum expects to go through shootaround in the morning and then assess where he’s at with the Hornets training and coaching staff before making a final decision. It’s clear Batum would like to be back out on the court.
“I would love to (be on the court for Game 5),” he said. “As a competitor, you want to be on the court every time. We work for 82 games and through training camp to be in the playoffs. That’s the real season. That’s why you play all year long to be on the court in the playoffs. Yes, I want to be on the court to help my teammates for sure.”
With or without Batum in Game 5, Head Coach Steve Clifford will still be looking at ways to make the offense better while sticking with the defensive scheme that helped the Hornets find success all season long.
“I think the one thing is, especially against a team like them, because they’re so well prepared, is you do have to have a variety of ways to score," said Clifford. "The one thing we’re obviously looking at is, what else can we do? We can obviously post Al [Jefferson], post Frank [Kaminsky]. We have the pick-and-roll with Kemba [Walker] and Jeremy [Lin], but looking at other things that we can do which would somehow promote more ball movement, the way that we played all year. It’s not easy to do because they’re really committed to taking that three-point shooting away and they’re doing a good job of it and I do think that we do have to find a way to move their defense around a little bit… That’s something that we’re looking at now and we’ll try to do tomorrow.”
Monday, April 25, 12:03 p.m.
The big news from shootaround on Monday morning was that Nicolas Batum has been ruled out for Game 4 against Miami with his foot injury. Although he is out of the walking boot, Batum will not be available to suit up against Miami.
“Nic wasn’t able to do shootaround, so he’ll be out tonight. We’re hopeful for Wednesday. We’ll start the same five guys (tonight),” said Head Coach Steve Clifford. “Obviously we’d be more confident if he could play. That’s just NBA basketball. I think our guys are good. We’ve had more than our share of injuries all year and they’ve had the right attitude. In this league, you get up in the morning and ask who’s good to play today and you play the best you can with that team. Obviously we’ve proved we have more than enough to win and play well. We wish we had him, but the biggest thing is to play well, so that’s what we have to be locked in on.”
With Batum out, Clifford opted to add both Al Jefferson and Frank Kaminsky to the starting lineup alongside Kemba Walker, Courtney Lee and Marvin Williams in Game 3, and the adjustment work as six Hornets scored in double digits in Charlotte’s 96-80 victory. It was the first time all season the Hornets used that starting five. Now its time to see what, if any, changes the Heat will make heading into Game 4.
“You never really know what kind of adjustments (the opposing team is) going to make,” said Williams, who recorded his first playoff double-double (12 points, 14 rebounds) in Game 3. “You just try to be as prepared as you can, and I feel like Coach Cliff and his staff did a great job of getting us prepared. The lineup change seemed to work out for us. I feel like anybody that steps on the court for us or came off the bench was ready to play. I think that was just the biggest difference from the first two games. Hopefully tonight if we come out with that same intensity and play with that same purpose, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
Sunday, April 24, 2:19 p.m.
Fresh of arguably the biggest win in the current Charlotte franchise’s history, the Hornets were back on the practice court at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 24 prepping for Game 4 on April 25. The theme of the day centered around consistency in the team’s performance after the 96-80 Game 3 victory, because the Hornets know how crucial it will be to head back to Miami tied 2-2 in the series.
“Tomorrow night is just as important as the game was last night. We didn’t want to go down 3-0, because that’s impossible (to bounce back from), and being down 3-1 – we’ve seen teams come back and win a series being down 3-1 but you still don’t want to do it,” said center Al Jefferson. “The way we played last night, we just have to carry that on into tomorrow night.”
With Nic Batum still listed as questionable for Game 4 with a foot injury, the Hornets are focused on another complete team effort. They had six players score in double figures in Game 3, attacking the Heat from multiple angles by spreading the ball around.
“That’s been the special thing about this team compared to every other team I’ve been on since I got to the league, is that we’re so deep,” said Jefferson, who was inserted into the starting lineup with Frank Kaminsky. “To do what we did without MKG pretty much the whole season, me missing a lot of time, now Nic going down in Game 2 – we continued to rise up. We’re very deep and have guys who have big nights and can carry the team and we saw it again last night.”
Another positive sign at the Novant Health Training Center was Batum sans walking boot – an encouraging sign of progress in his recovery. While Batum isn’t ready to say he’s going to be on the court tomorrow, it’s clear he hopes to return to the series as soon as possible.
“I feel better than yesterday. I don’t know yet, but I hope so. I can’t say yes or no, because I really don’t know. I’ll see how it feels tomorrow,” said Batum. “I got here this morning at 10 a.m. and going to be going through treatment until about 3 p.m. I’m doing everything I can to be back as soon as possible on the court. Will it be tomorrow? Maybe – I don’t know yet, so we’ll see…. I think I’ll be back in this series. I hope so. I intend to be back.”
One thing the Hornets are certain they’ll have in Game 4 is the home court advantage that led them to 30 home wins in the regular season and the bounce back win in Game 3.
“They played a big part in (the win),” Jefferson said. “Our crowd was really into it, especially when we went on the 18-0 run. They really were into it and really got us going. Everybody was hype. That’s what you miss when you’re away, because the Miami crowd did the same thing for them. It was good to have that on our side.”
Tuesday, April 19, 5:11 p.m.
There were a few buzzwords that seemed key to the Hornets as they practiced at the University of Miami Practice Facility in preparation for Game 2 of their Eastern Conference Playoff matchup with the Heat on Wednesday: readiness, effort, intensity and focus – all keys that led Charlotte to a 48-win season and a playoff berth.
“We have to play the way we normally play. We’re usually the team that comes out with the fire, the intensity and the spirit. We just didn’t,” said Kemba Walker. “We understand the things that we need to do to give us the best opportunity to win basketball games. We’re ready to try and be a lot better than we were last game. I know we will. Throughout the course of the season, we’ve usually done pretty well when we have really bad losses. Hopefully we can continue that. I know it’s different. I know it’s the playoffs and not the regular season. It’s different basketball, but hopefully we can come out a lot better.”
Head Coach Steve Clifford echoed his captain’s sentiments.
“We have to try harder. We have to have more readiness to play. A lot of it is basic principles,” Clifford said. “We have to set a tone higher on the floor with ball pressure. We have to be earlier with our talking, better with our organization, better with being more physical and ready to play and we have to take their strengths away. We started the game closing short to (Luol) Deng twice, who is a 37 percent three-point shooter. We have guys that are right there and those are plays that have to be made every time. We’ve been good at that all year. We were 1.02 points per possession for the year. We were the ninth best defensive team in the NBA, and it was out of character for us and they took full advantage of it. Whatever it was – lack of readiness, nerves or whatever – the bottom line is we didn’t play with the intensity level we need to and they did.”
If the Hornets are looking to draw inspiration for what can be done in the NBA playoffs, they need to look no further than Oklahoma City. The Dallas Mavericks dropped Game 1 of their Western Conference Playoff matchup to the Thunder, 108-70, but responded with an inspired effort in Game 2 and knocked off the Thunder, 85-84, three days later in Oklahoma City to tie the series heading back to Dallas.
“(Game 1) was a really bad game, but it’s just one game. We have to deal with it, move on and just say, okay, it was an accident,” said Nicolas Batum. “You saw last night, the Mavs reacted and won Game 2. I’m sure between those two games they tried to work on it and listened why. They came in stronger than they did in Game 1 and we have to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Point guard Jeremy Lin agreed and knows that the 123-91 loss in Game 1 is not indicative of who this Hornets team is and has been all season.
“I think everybody on this team understands that we’re not 30 or 40 points worse than they are, so it’s on us to figure that out for Game 2,” Lin said. “We didn’t feel disrespected or anything. We did what we did and they played well. At the end of the day, we need to win Game 2 and that’s all that we’re focused on.”
Unfortunately for the Hornets, the NBA Playoff schedule often times lends itself to larger breaks between games, giving them more time to contemplate what went wrong and increasing their eagerness to fix it while waiting to get back on the court.
“One of the best things about the NBA is that when you play a tough game you usually play tomorrow or the next day. We’ve kind of been sitting on that egg for the last couple of days,” said Marvin Williams. “It’s seemed a lot longer than normal but we’re going to have a good practice today and be ready to go tomorrow.”
It is that practice time that can be invaluable in the playoffs though as teams try to bounce back from a disappointing performance. If the Hornets are going to avoid losing back-to-back games for just the second time since the start of January, it’s the work they do in the film room and on the practice court that will get them there.
“What I want is a couple good hours of practice,” Clifford said. “It’s not just about playing the games. One of the biggest things in the playoffs is what you do game to game. I think we put a big dent into what we have to fix defensively yesterday. We’ll work on it today, but you can just go out and play. You have to play correctly, and that’s what we have to use today for.”
To a man, Charlotte knows that if it is going to turn the tide in the series, it will be done on the defensive end, where the Hornets were outplayed on the glass and dominated in points in the paint. Despite the result in Game 1, the offense was clicking, but a lackluster defensive performance cost them.
“We were 1.07 points per possession on offense. For the year, that would be like third or fourth best in the league against a very good defensive team. We scored 91 points because there weren’t a lot of possessions – the game is slower. Our offense was actually, even though it can be better, really good. So that’s not the problem,” said Clifford. “We couldn’t guard them at all. That was what we have to fix. You want to get better in both areas but the offensive part was actually more than good enough to win.”
In order for the Hornets to return home with the series tied, they’ll look to get back to doing the things that brought them success all season. Defense will be key, and if this Charlotte squad plays the way it knows it is capable of, it could lead to a different result in Game 2.
"We just have to be ready from the beginning – from tipoff,” said Al Jefferson. “We have to be ready with our mindset. We have to be focused like when we came in here and beat them in the season on a back-to-back. We were mentally prepared and that’s going to be the difference.”
Added Walker, “I have to get my team ready, and we will be. I have to be better as well. I have to set a certain tone for my teammates, and I’m definitely going to do that. I’m just ready for tomorrow. The only thing that’s been on my mind is how bad we lost, so I’m just ready to play.”
Monday, April 18, 4:38 p.m.
One day after falling to the Miami Heat, 123-91, in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Playoff matchup, the Hornets were back on the court at the Field House/Practice Facility at the University of Miami working on corrections heading into Game 2 on Wednesday.
After being outrebounded, 42-28, and being outscored in the paint, 56-36, most of the Hornets attention was on their work on the defensive end, primarily on the inside.
“First and foremost, we have to do a better job on the glass,” said forward Marvin Williams. “They kind of punished us last night with the rebounding. Secondly, we have to be more in tune to our coverages. We’ve been a pretty good defensive team all year long, and last night I don’t thing we did the best job of showing that. We have to be locked in to what we’re doing on defense and try to execute a little better on offense.
While watching the film of Game 1 wasn’t easy for the Hornets, there were positives the team took away from breaking down what they saw.
“I think the biggest thing you take from the film is knowing that the things we made mistakes on are correctable,” said Williams. “It wasn’t so much what Miami did – take nothing away from them, they played extremely well and did what they were supposed to do, but we didn’t play our best basketball and we know that.”
Charlotte also knows it needs to do whatever it can to slow the momentum the Heat were able to build in the first quarter as they opened up a 41-22 lead in front of a frenzied crowd at American Airlines Arena.
“We have to stick with the game plan,” said center Cody Zeller. “We know that they’re going to make runs throughout the game. We love playing in front of big crowds, whether they’re cheering for or against us. You live for playing in the playoffs. It’s not so much the atmosphere, but sticking with our game plan and doing what we do best.”
In order for the Hornets to be at their best, they’ll need to rely on the contributions of point guard Kemba Walker, who tweaked his knee a little in the Game 1 loss but said in his blog that, like his teammates, he’ll be ready for Game 2.
“I’m feeling pretty good and just resting it today, which is the smartest thing to do so I can be 100 percent for Game 2,” blogged Walker. “We’ve got a couple days before the next game, and now I think its good to have that time to let me rest up. These two days are really important, but at the same time it kind of sucks. When you lose, you just want to get back on the court and play again. But that’s how the playoffs are. We have these days in between to get better, learn from our mistakes and get ready. We will be ready.”
For more on Monday's practice, check out Live with Matt and Matt as Matt Carroll, myself and Steve Martin take a look back at Game 1 and ahead to Game 2.