The Hornets are struggling to find their shot during losing skid

By Chase Whitney

March 10, 2022

Photo: Sheldon Kearse / CLTure 

The general air of positivity that surrounded the Charlotte Hornets for much of this season has all but fizzled out.

Since January 30, the Hornets are a whopping 4-13, dropping them from five games above the .500 mark to three games below. Once an elite offense, they’re now 27th in offensive rating, but have climbed to 14th in defensive rating. The Hornets substituted elite offense and poor defense for poor offense and improved defense around the time Gordon Hayward was injured, and it has not worked out in their favor.

Hornets back-to-back recap

An early week back-to-back at the Spectrum Center against formidable Eastern Conference foes did not go as planned for the Hornets. Kyrie Irving dropped 50 points on 15-19 shooting, including 9-12 from deep, leading Brooklyn to a double-digit win. Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier each had 30 points and Jalen McDaniels returned after a 19-game absence, but slow closeouts and rotations buried the Hornets.

There were plenty of moments against Boston where the Hornets could’ve taken control of the game; however, Jayson Tatum made them victims of another scoring outburst as he poured in 44 points on 16-24 giving him 135 points over the last three games, a Celtics franchise record. The Celtics’ number one defense coupled with Tatum’s hot hand were difficult for a tired Hornets team to overcome on the second night of a back-to-back.

What’s up next for the Hornets? 

Former Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham matches up with his old squad for the first time on Friday as the Hornets visit the Pelicans before traveling to Oklahoma City. After that, Charlotte starts a five-game homestand against Atlanta.

New Orleans had been one of the most entertaining teams in the NBA prior to a recent three-game skid. Since acquiring CJ McCollum (12 games), the Pelicans are one of five teams in the top-11 in both offensive and defensive rating with McCollum himself averaging 27.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists, shooting 52.7 percent overall and 39.8 percent on 7.8 attempted threes per game. He’s made himself at home in Louisiana and the Pelicans have a real shot at making noise in the play-in tournament if Zion Williamson can ever get healthy.

The Thunder’s late-season tank is in full swing. OKC has lost four-straight games to put themselves among the top-four in draft lottery odds. They have 18 players that have appeared in at least 10 games with more than 10 minutes per game in those appearances. Josh Giddey is all but a lock for first team All-Rookie, Tre Mann has shown flashes of a potent shot-creator, and Aaron Wiggins has started 26 games after being selected 55th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft. This should be a very winnable game, even for the slumping Hornets.

The Hawks turned their season around with a seven-game winning streak in January, but still have yet to get above .500 since they were 13-12 on December 6. Trae Young and the Atlanta offense are potent, ranking second in the league, but they’re dragged down by a bottom-five defense. The Hawks are currently 10th in the standings behind the Hornets at the time of publishing and play three games before visiting The Hive. Regardless of how Atlanta performs, this will be an important matchup for play-in seeding purposes.

What to watch for

The offense in general has been the issue as the Hornets have devolved a bit in recent games, but what’s interesting is the team’s style hasn’t changed much. The Hornets are sixth in pace (14 seconds per possession) since January 30 and average almost the exact same amount of attempted threes (38.9 per game) and assists (26.7) as they have all year. The biggest difference, and it’s quite noticeable when watching each game, is that three-point efficiency has dropped off a cliff. From the start of the season to January 30, the Hornets were fourth, shooting 36.9 percent from deep. Since then, they’re 29th, shooting 32.1 percent. Let’s dig even deeper.

While LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier have shot 37.4 and 37.3 percent from three in the last month-plus, Bridges is at 25 percent (5.4 3PA), Cody Martin is at 31 percent (2.6 3PA), Kelly Oubre Jr. is at 27.6 percent (7.9 3PA) and PJ Washington is at 32 percent (5.9 3PA). Those are some daunting numbers over such a large sample size, especially given Hayward and Jalen McDaniels, two of the team’s most efficient shooters, have been sidelined. A reversion back to the mean is likely when the Hornets get healthy and players find their shot again, but this slide has exemplified the risks of relying on the jump shot.

The good news? James Borrego recently said that Hayward is out of a walking boot and is “making progress” towards a return, per Rod Boone of the Charlotte Observer. Still, no timetable has been provided, but it seems more likely Hayward has a chance of playing down the stretch. McDaniels sat the second night of the back-to-back, but if all goes well, he should be healthy going forward. Let’s just hope the Hornets can get their shooting back.

Check out the remaining 2021-22 Charlotte Hornets schedule.

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