Marcin Gortat, Kemba Walker

Trying to find a bottom line to the Charlotte Hornets losing 113-98 to the Washington Wizards isn’t that difficult. The problem is non of the ideas coming up have any positive spin to them. Kemba Walker was bad, Nicolas Batum was worse, the defense under the basket didn’t exist and Jeremy Lin? An early Sunday session he’d like to forget.

Lin had his absolute worst game of the season with 1 points on 0-for-6 from the field, playing 22 minutes in which he added one rebounds, three assists and a steal. The elbow, the early game which is something Lin usually doesn’t like and also the possibility of staying up too late to watch Manny Pacquiao fight Timothy Bradley. Maybe it’s one of these reasons, maybe it’s all of them together. Doesn’t matter. The Hornets looked like a team giving up on the possibility of getting home court advantage in the first round series of the playoffs. John Wall wasn’t even playing, which should be make the Hornets even more worried.

Besides their awful shooting (34.6% from the field), the defense under the basket was just awful. The Wizards scored 50 points in the paint (Hornets are actually third best in the NBA in that category), with Marcin Gortat taking advantage of the nothing in his way to score 21 points. Interior defense begins with guarding the perimeter, but it doesn’t help when Frank Kaminsky (18 points in 30 minutes) and Al Jefferson (10 points in 21 minutes) are like air unless they need to jump for a rebound, and Cody Zeller has his better days, but this was not one of them in terms of stopping players in the paint.

You can talk about perimeter or team defense in general and compare it to the lines about chains or bonds, and when one piece is out of place or not working it all falls apart. The Hornets do have the option of playing with a very strong defensive trio, but that’s something Steve Clifford won’t do. As far as he’s concerned, Lin isn’t part of the main plan unless he has to turn to him. Bad elbow? Let him run up and down the court and do some defense. His offense in this game was bad, but he makes up for it on the other end.

Walker scored 16 points, seven coming from the line. He, Batum and Courtney Lee combined to shoot 9-for-33 from the field. Even Troy Daniels who wakes up for some threes once in a blue moon didn’t get anything to land for him. The Hornets got some runs from time to time, but in general, they looked weaker as the game went on. Without defense, it’s difficult to generate rhythm offensively.

The Hornets don’t have time to regroup from this loss. They have a road game in Boston, a team they haven’t beaten this season (although their first loss at home had a lot to do with officials) and a team with a smart head coach who has a team playing to his exact tune, while Isaiah Thomas gets to freestyle and it works. Guess what they’re going to do after watching the Hornets look lethargic and unable to protect the paint heading into Boston, with both teams having the 4th-3rd seeds to think about?

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