Grounded on Groundhog Day: What we learned from the Hornets' loss to the Chicago Bulls

Roderick Boone, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO — It was actually fitting for the Charlotte Hornets to play on Groundhog Day.

The same issues that have cropped up all season long were a problem yet again Thursday night at the United Center: Careless turnovers. Uninspiring defense. Mental lapses. Things that could have — and should have — been corrected by now.

But because they haven’t, just like when famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, it’s almost inevitable the Hornets are on their way to six more weeks of winter. Or in their case, more losing.

Not much went right for Charlotte in a 114-98 defeat to Chicago, further extinguishing the good vibes it was riding on the heels of a two-game winning streak. Save for a decent start, the Hornets didn’t do much against the Bulls to get overly excited about and weren’t able to put together the same kind of performance that allowed them to knock off Chicago seven days earlier.

Frustrations bubbled over late in the fourth quarter, when LaMelo Ball got ejected after being slapped with two separate technical fouls for arguing a non-call.

Here are some key takeaways from the Hornets’ second straight defeat:

Not in the zone

Perhaps looking to switch it up after the Hornets’ defense was shredded two nights earlier in Milwaukee, coach Steve Clifford tried to throw a wrinkle at Chicago.

But the Bulls ironed it out. And rather easily.


Whether it was seldom-used backup center Andre Drummond pounding them inside to the tune of eight points and seven rebounds through the first half alone, or Nikola Vucevic mixing finesse in with an uncontested dunk or two, Chicago had its way with the Hornets down low.

Yielding 30 points in the paint to the Bulls in the initial two quarters set a bad precedent and made it more difficult to trim a deficit as large as 17 points. Cleaning that up against Chicago had would’ve gone a long way in alleviating the uphill climb they faced throughout the game’s final 29 minutes.

Deep struggles

Maybe some of the frigid, sub-freezing air whipping outside off Lake Michigan eventually made it into the arena. Wherever the case, the Hornets went ice-cold from 3-point range in the final three quarters, and they paid for it.

After draining five of their first nine attempts, the Hornets clanked nearly all of their remaining 26 attempts beyond the arc. They shot 20% from 3-point land, making 7 of 35, while Chicago nailed 11 of 28 attempts. Yet another one of the subtle differences the Hornets couldn’t overcome.

On the Mark

The on-court education for Mark Wiliams continues, as he remains the primary backup to starter Mason Plumlee over Nick Richards. And the rookie once again showed flashes of his impressive skill set during his 17 minutes.

Williams was efficient, nailing all but one of his seven attempts and displaying his nifty footwork and length around the basket. His 13 points were the most by a reserve for the Hornets and the 7-footer also swatted three shots, which includes an emphatic rejection where he snatched Coby White’s shot out of the air with one hand.

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