(Written By David Walters)
The Charlotte Hornets (1-3) made their only visit to New Orleans to face the Pelicans (2-2) on Tuesday night but they came up short, 91-100, for their third consecutive loss.
Both teams played well in the first quarter; Kemba Walker knocked down two from long range to help jump start the Hornets, but New Orleans went on an 18-10 run to end the quarter with a 26-21 lead. The action continued on into the second quarter as the teams went back and forth exchanging the lead until the Pelicans went on a 7-0 run capped by a Ryan Anderson three-pointer. The Hornets responded with veteran Al Jefferson putting a few sweet moves on the Pelicans’ big men Anthony Davis and Omer Asik on the low block to close the gap.
The Hornets finished the quarter strong, going on a 6-0 run to end the quarter as they went into the locker room with a 48-47 lead. Charlotte outscored New Orleans in the paint 18-6 in the second quarter, as Jefferson took advantage of the Pelicans bigs with hard ball fakes near the basket. Turnovers were the difference in the first half, as the Hornets only turned the ball over six times to New Orleans’ ten turnovers.
New Orleans jumped out to an eight-point lead to begin the third quarter, as Charlotte opened the period shooting 0-6 before finally hitting a shot almost six minutes into the third. The Hornets’ offense became anemic, as Jefferson and Gary Neal were seemingly the only players able to find the bucket for Charlotte during a stretch that saw the Pelicans open up a bigger lead.
The Hornets entered the fourth quarter with a 65-73 deficit, and with Neal as the only reliable scoring option for the Hornets, they continued to fall behind as the same “laissez-faire” approach that coach Clifford mentioned Sunday night returned.
The Hornets were beaten in two key statistics in this game, rebounds and free throw shooting. The Pelicans led 14-4 on second chance baskets and outrebounded the Hornets, 47 to 34. They also shot a perfect 19-19 from the charity stripe while the Hornets only hit 11-13. It also didn’t help that the Charlotte starters were thoroughly outplayed by the reserves.
This years Hornets squad has been streaky at times, playing well in spurts but also sleepwalking at other points of the games, leaving Charlotte in a position where they are playing from behind with a limited scoring punch. Most of these problems were expected though, as a third of the Hornets roster is new and injuries limited the opportunity to gel in the preseason.
Gary Neal provided the usual spark off the Hornets bench and led the team in scoring with 21 points, with ten of them coming in the third period. Neal shot an efficient 9-15 from the field and added six rebounds as he continued to show off the work he put into his offseason.
Big Al was solid for the Hornets, showing off his arsenal of moves to the tune of 20 points and five rebounds. Walker continued to struggle with his jumpshot, finishing with 11 points on 4-13 shooting and Stephenson also struggled from the floor, shooting 1-6 for two points to go with a team high seven rebounds and four assists.
With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sidelined with a rib contusion, Gerald Henderson started the game for the Hornets and contributed six points and two rebounds.
Cody Zeller played well with nine points and five rebounds as he continues to show an improved game in his second year and rookie P.J. Hairston saw his first action of