Hornets Have No Margin for Error in Loss to Clippers

Los Angeles’ 42-point 4th Quarter Costs Charlotte
by Sam Perley

By Matt Rochinski

When the Hornets tipped off in Los Angeles against the Clippers on Tuesday, they knew what they were up against in the four-game stretch that remained on their season-long, West Coast trip.

In the course of the next week, Charlotte will face four opponents - Clippers (13-6), Portland Trail Blazers (16-7), Sacramento Kings (11-10) and San Antonio (17-5) - with a combined 57-28 home record (.760 winning percentage). Getting off to a fast start on their opponents court could be key over this stretch to keep the home team from building early momentum.

The Hornets got off to a good start early in the first and found themselves ahead, 21-18, with 4:27 left after connecting on 9-of-19 shots from the field (47.4 percent). Charlotte seemed buoyed by the return of Jeremy Lamb, who had eight points in the first eight minutes and would finish with 16 points and six rebounds in 30 minutes.

“He looked solid. He looked healthy. I didn’t feel like he was limited at all,” Hornets Head Coach James Borrego said of Lamb. “He had a good performance and I think we’ve got him back in the mix now.”

But in a battle of two of the NBA’s top benches, it was the Clippers reserves who got the upper hand early in this contest led by perhaps the NBA’s best reserve. With both teams going to their benches at the end of the frame, Lou Williams scored seven points as a reserve in the final 4:19 of the first as the Clippers outscored Charlotte 15-3 to turn a two-point deficit into a 33-24 advantage heading to the second quarter. The Hornets went cold over that brief stretch to end the first, only hitting 1-of-9 shots from the field (11.1 percent) as Los Angeles pulled away.

“We have no margin for error,” Borrego said. “We were right there and slipped up for two or three minutes and it cost us.”

Charlotte continued to battle back through the second and third quarters, never allowing the Clippers to get a lead of more than 11 points. At eight different times, the Hornets were able to pull the game to within two or three points, but could never retake the lead and headed to the fourth quarter trailing, 86-77.

That’s when the Clippers broke the game open with a 42-point fourth quarter led by 14 points off the bench from Williams. Los Angeles outshot Charlotte, 64.0 percent (16-of-25) to 40.0 percent (6-of-15) from the field, including 60.0 percent (6-of-10) to 44.4 percent (4-of-9) from long range, while also getting outscored 16-4 in the paint in the quarter.

“It’s always about our defense. We’ve got to get better defensively,” said Borrego. “Again, no margin for error on that end of the floor. We have to keep getting better and more sound defensively… One quarter cost us again. A 42-point quarter is way too much, but I expect us to do better in Portland.”

The Hornets will look to see if Malik Monk can build off of his team-high 24 points off the bench, including 19 in the fourth quarter on 5-of-9 shooting from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and a perfect 6-of-6 from the charity stripe.

Monk was followed by Lamb, Marvin Williams (14), Kemba Walker (13), Tony Parker (12) and Nic Batum (10) in double-figure scoring for Charlotte.

Williams led four Clippers with 20+ points with 27 off the bench.

The Hornets now head to Portland for a 10 p.m. tip on Friday against the Trail Blazers.