At this point it’s probably easier for Steve Clifford to list who’s available instead of who’s out.
The Charlotte Hornets coach was without his best players again on Monday night, as has been the case for the bulk of this season. This time, he also had to deal with an unexpected loss when Terry Rozier was stricken with an illness hours before tipoff in Boston. It left the already shorthanded Hornets all the more thin and the result against one of the league’s top teams was far from pretty.
Pounded from the opening quarter and outclassed right from the initial jump ball, the Hornets were throttled by Boston 140-105 at TD Garden, ending their first winning streak of the season.
“We came out flat,” Jalen McDaniels said. “They hit us in the mouth. They went up by like 15, 20 so that’s a hard deficit to come back from. We were just playing catch up for the whole game. You don’t like playing like that. You want to play from ahead. They got the first jump on us.”
And Boston didn’t quit until it registered the most points its netted all season.
“We came into this 12th, 13th in defense and they make you look bad, too,” Clifford said. “But we did not have the right mentality to even have a chance to make it hard on them.”
Here are some takeaways from the Hornets’ defeat to the Celtics:
Outrun from the outset
Typically, making half of its first-half shots and draining 40% from 3-point range would put a team in a good position. As would compiling assists on all but six of 22 made buckets – especially if it happened on the road.
Here’s the problem the Hornets (6-15) faced despite totaling those numbers against the Celtics: Boston posted video game-like numbers in a 78-point first half to exhort its power on the Hornets and flex its muscle despite star forward Jaylen Brown missing the game along with big man Al Horford. The Hornets found themselves in a 45-19 hole at the end of the first quarter, a deficit that felt even larger than that.
To compound an inability to stop Boston’s offensive attack, the Hornets turned the ball over way too much in the first half, recording 10 that directly led to eight. Luckily for the Hornets, the Celtics (17-4) also had 10 miscues during the first two quarters and yielded eight points themselves in what ultimately was a doomsday quarter for the Hornets.
“It’s a culmination of things,” Clifford said. “These guys are on record to be one of the best offensive teams of all time. So when you make a mistake, they make you pay. They were good and I would love to have seen us be better technically with the things that we are doing.
“Nobody else has been able to stop them, either So I don’t think it was some terrible effort. They are really good, we needed to play better.”
McDaniels a bright spot
With the uncertainty surrounding Gordon Hayward’s availability – he’s out with a left shoulder blade fracture – it leaves plenty of minutes for others at small forward.
McDaniels is making an early case to gobble up plenty of them.
The fourth-year forward totaled a career-best 24 points, leading the Hornets in scoring. He also nailed a career-high tying four 3-pointers.
It’s the latest solid outing for McDaniels, who’s carved out a nice role with the Hornets.
“Just being aggressive,” McDaniels explained. “Hitting my shots not trying to do too much. Just staying within me. I just had more opportunity. I started tonight. More shots and all that, so I just made a few of my shots. That’s all.”
With three-fifths of the Hornets’ normal starting lineup in street clothes on the bench, McDaniels certainly made the most of his opportunity. Collectively, though, the team’s margin or error is slim minus a bulk of its playmakers.
“We know we are missing a lot of players, so it makes it good that, ‘OK, we’ve got guys coming back,’” McDaniels said. “But we try to stay in the present. It’s next man up. We just have to go out there and play hard. We are all good enough to play in the league, good enough with the guys that we’ve got to get a win. We’ve just got to go out there and ... put (in) more effort.”