The Golden State Warriors aren’t just supremely talented, they are strikingly surgical.
If you do something well, they minimize it. If you do something poorly, they exploit it.
That the Charlotte Hornets lost at home Wednesday, 101-87, is no surprise. This was their seventh consecutive loss to the Warriors, the defending NBA champions.
When you dissect how the Warriors put away the Hornets, who dropped to 9-14 this season, there is much to be gleaned:
▪ The Hornets are one of the NBA’s better teams at getting to the foul line. Just two nights earlier, they had taken 40 free throws against the Orlando Magic.
Wednesday? The Hornets didn’t take their first free throw until about three minutes remained in the first half. If the Hornets aren’t getting cheap points at the foul line, their offense is pretty shaky. For just the third time this season, they couldn’t reach even 90 points.
Acting coach Stephen Silas (filling in for an ailing Steve Clifford) said the lack of free throws early reflected poor ball movement. He’s certainly right about that; the Hornets had just six assists at halftime.
▪ Since Clifford arrived here four-plus seasons ago, getting back on defense has been his non-negotiable. The goal is not to let the opposing team reach 10 fast-break points.
The Warriors totaled 11 fast-break points in the first half alone, and 24 for this game. To illustrate how out of character that is for the Hornets, they entered this game allowing an average of 7.5 fast-break points, second-best in the NBA.
The 20-6 Warriors run efficiently even minus point guard Stephen Curry, out with a sprained ankle. Maybe this was a blip over an 82-game season. But you have to wonder if the video of Wednesday’s game will suggest to other teams the Hornets aren’t so hard to run on after all.
▪ The Hornets are better this season at getting the ball into the post. That is seemingly inevitable with the addition of center Dwight Howard. The Hornets narrowly outscored the Warriors in the lane 46-44.
The problem, and this isn’t the first time, is the Hornets were dramatically outscored from 3-point range. Thirty-three of the Warriors’ 101 points came from 3s, even without Curry, who recently passed 2,000 3s made for his career.
The Hornets scored 18 points from the 3-point line, on 6-of-19 shooting. That is not going to cut it. At 8.91 3s made per game, the Hornets are tied with the Milwaukee Bucks for 25th among 30 NBA teams. At 25.45 3s attempted per game, they are 24th in the league.
▪ The Hornets looked like a team with plenty of big-man depth. That somewhat evaporated in this game.
Frank Kaminsky suffered a sprained right ankle in the second quarter. Cody Zeller suffered a strained left knee in the second half. Those are the top two bigs off the bench, and no telling whether either injury will linger.
The next option would be Johnny O’Bryant, who has played in just eight games this season, but is versatile enough to be either a center or a power forward. After that, it would be asking 6-5 Treveon Graham to play some power forward.
Neither of those options would be ideal. But so far, ideal isn’t a word easily tied to the Hornets’ season.