Another Game, Another Loss Against the Charlotte Hornets | Wizards Blog Truth About

Another Game, Another Loss Against the Charlotte Hornets

Updated: February 24, 2018

[A surprising number of fans lined up early to attend the Washington vs. Charlotte game. Photo – A. Rubin]

The Washington Wizards have played the Charlotte Hornets three time this season. They have lost all three games. Prior to the third game at Capital One Arena on Friday night, Hornets coach Steve Clifford explained why the Hornets have had success versus Washington:

“We made shots. Especially the second game if you watch it. Look, when the ball goes in the basket, what do they say? Shooting cures a lot of sins. You can make a lot of mistakes and if you make a lot shots…really there’s nothing more important you can do, right? You can do a lot of things well defensively, you can rebound the ball and if you don’t shoot well it’s going to be hard to win and in those two games we shot the ball well.”

The Hornets kept the good times rolling at the start of their third match-up with the Wizards, shooting 60 percent (15-25) in the first quarter, en route to a 36-26 lead. Charlotte scored from near (8-11 in the paint) and far (5-9 on 3-pointers) with little in the way of resistance from Wizards defenders.

Things didn’t improve much for Washington in the second quarter. The pace of play was disrupted by a ridiculous 17 combined fouls, many in comically late fashion. At one point the second quarter devolved into a battle of dueling offensive fouls. Both teams’ players and coaches spent the bulk of their effort arguing calls — and rightfully so.

Still, amid the whistles, Charlotte was able to extend its lead to 17 points before Washington’s final possession of the half when Otto, Oubre and Beal brought some much need energy to the arena. First, Otto drove to the basket and dropped off a nice pass to a cutting Oubre for a layup with 1.4 seconds remaining. Then, this happened:

Just like that, the Wizards entered halftime with momentum and a very manageable deficit. Unfortunately, they were never quite able to get over the hump. Washington went on a lightning quick 9-0 run early in the third quarter to cut Charlotte’s lead to six points. The 60-second burst included a Beal jumper, layup and 3-pointer, as well as an athletic tip-in by Porter.

But less than 90 seconds later, Charlotte built its lead back up to 14. The Wizards never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way. That was the ebb and flow for the entire second half. Washington showed a glimmer of life and then the Hornets snuffed it out, usually courtesy of a Kemba Walker or Frank Kaminsky basket.

It’s hard to tell when the final breath left their lungs — whether it was Charlotte’s three consecutive offensive rebounds in a possession that lasted more than a minute (from 7:46 to 6:35 in the fourth quarter) and ended with an emphatic Jeremy Lamb dunk, or whether it was Frank Kaminsky’s umpteenth 3-pointer that gave Charlotte a 19 point lead with 3:32 left — but the message was clear: this was not Washington’s night.

Scott Brooks walked into the post-game press conference looking like he would rather be anywhere else.

[Scott Brooks post-game press conference. February 23, 2018. Photo – A. Rubin]

“We haven’t been able to figure them out,” Brooks said. “They came out and played a physical basketball game against us and we were back on our heels most of the night.”

Brooks said what everyone could see on the court: “They outplayed us. We seemed to be a step slow throughout the night on both ends of the floor… Defensively we were just giving them too many easy shots – back doors, offensive rebounds, wide open 3s.”

Brooks acknowledged that it was a lackluster effort on the heels of such an uplifting win in Cleveland the night before: “You would have hoped that we would have come out with better physicality, better juice, and we did not do that. I don’t know if it negates last night’s win or not but you don’t feel good.”

The only moment of levity came when a reporter addressed the coach as “Mr. Brooks” and Scott couldn’t help but smile. Other than that, the team’s mood mirrored that of its fans: disappointment.

Steve Clifford Explains the Wizards Non-John Wall Success

The Washington Wizards success without John Wall – they were 8-2 heading into the game against Charlotte – has been a topic of discussion among fans, commentators and the players themselves. Hornets coach Steve Clifford was asked about the unexpected success before the game:

“They’ve done an incredible job. I think they are 10-2 without him. I think Satoransky has done a great job of really showing everybody what a good player he can be and blending it with the first unit, their ball movement. And they’ve stayed with their defense which is such a big part of what they do. They’re a balanced team. One thing you have to do – you can’t turn the ball over and John is great at creating offense with defense, Satoransky also a very active defender.”

As Bradley Beal famously noted with his “everybody eats” comment, the Wizards offense has been more balanced lately. Clifford highlighted the versatility of the Wizards offense:

“The thing that they do well — what any good team does, especially teams that want to play well in the playoffs – you have to have different aspects of your offense. If you watch them, they’ll post Morris a little bit and iso a little bit but they have a pick and roll game, they have player movement options and then they have all the Wall catch-and-shoot, Jodie Meeks catch-and-shoot and Porter’s doing more of that too. So they challenge more aspects of NBA defense than a lot of teams do.”

When asked specifically how a team that relies so heavily on its point guard could be playing so well in his absence, Clifford once again cited the play of Satoransky:

“Again, this is just – obviously we played last night so I’m no expert – this is just a few hours here but I think one, Satoransky I would think his play has been exceptional. I think they are at best when they are scoring off their defense and he surprised me, and I watched pretty closely with how he is able to create defense. Really quick with his hands, length, aggressiveness. So I think he blends well with the other players.

“Then I think looking at it, I think by the numbers Otto Porter is four points more per game. And you’ve got veteran guys that have been through the wars, so it’s a good team, Bradley Beal’s having really an incredible year and they’ve all played better. But I still think is much of it – this would just be again sitting and watching for a few hours – I think Satoransky’s come in and done a great job.”

Hearing Clifford mention Satoransky so many times reminded me of Otto Porter’s emergence early last season when he was hitting 3-pointers at a league-leading clip. Even though Otto was a key to the Wizards’ success, it took the rest of the league a few weeks to take notice. After one of Otto’s big games, I remember players in the visiting locker room complaining that he was not even on the scouting report.

I wondered if the same phenomenon might be playing out with Satoransky, so I asked Clifford if he has to do anything special to make sure his team is prepared for the Wizards’ different style of play with a relatively unknown point guard:

“Well, they’ve played against him. He’s been in the playing group here too, so it’s not like he’s an unknown guy. I mean look, you can’t be a good player in this league if you’re not a student of other guys. The best players I’ve been around are the most studious. These guys are watching all the time. They watch the other teams play.

“Let’s put it this way. If I’m having to walk in there – which I’m not, not with our guys – and saying ‘Hey look out for this guy,’ then you have no chance to win.  I think that’s one of the things that NBA players, the good ones, don’t get enough credit for. They’re watching. They study other teams.”

Clifford was correct. The Hornets have clearly been prepared for whatever the Wizards have thrown their way this season. The two teams will have to wait until March 31 for their fourth and final meeting to see if Washington can finally crack Charlotte’s code.

[Hornets coach Steve Clifford addresses the media before the game against Washington. Photo – A. Rubin]

Adam Rubin on EmailAdam Rubin on Twitter
Adam Rubin
Reporter / Writer at TAI
Adam grew up in the D.C. area and has been a Washington Bullets fan for over 25 years. He will not refer to the franchise as anything other than the Bullets unless required to do so by Truth About It editorial standards. Adam spent many nights at the Capital Centre in the ‘90s where he witnessed such things as Michael Jordan’s “LaBradford Smith game,” the inexcusable under-usage of Gheorghe Muresan’s unstoppable post moves, and the basketball stylings of Ledell Eackles.