The Atlanta Hawks haven’t been very good lately.
The Charlotte Hornets have been even worse.
So that sets up Friday night’s meeting in Charlotte, N.C., where neither team is likely to be in much of a good mood.
The Hornets were called out for their recent lackluster performances, with coach Steve Clifford pointing squarely at the defense.
“All we care about is scoring. That’s it,” Clifford said. “If you’re going to play like that, you’d better have five All-Stars, and we don’t have that kind of talent.”
Charlotte, with its losing streak sitting at six games, surrendered a season-high point total Wednesday night, albeit in an overtime game, a 141-134 loss to visiting Detroit.
Hawks coach Nate McMillan had a similar tone regarding his team. Atlanta has lost five of its past six games, with its coach saying there haven’t been enough connections within the team.
“Urgency, energy, scrappy play is something you have to bring every single night to the floor,” McMillan said. “You can’t wait until you’re busted in the mouth before you respond.”
Clifford said the Hornets need to improve their approach. He called out his team for not being determined enough in rebounding or in pursuing loose balls.
“It’s not that we’re not trying to win. It’s that we go about it all wrong,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Atlanta isn’t touting great defense either. It gave up its second-highest point total of the season in Wednesday night’s 135-124 road loss to the Orlando Magic.
“This is not October, November where teams are still trying to play themselves into rhythm,” McMillan said. “Teams have rhythms now. Guys are in shape. To not come out with that sense of urgency, there’s no excuse for that.”
For the Hornets, some of their good work has been wasted. That’s what might be most disturbing.
“Five of the last seven games, we’ve been pretty good on offense,” Clifford said. “We are playing no defense. Not one guy. There’s not a bright spot. We don’t run back on defense. We don’t guard the ball.”
He said the team moved into the middle of the NBA statistically in defense a few weeks ago. That progress has gone by the wayside.
“We’re right back where we started (defensively). Ground zero,” Clifford said. “You either build a game that will actually work at the end of the year when you play the important games, or you don’t.”
If there’s a positive aspect for the Hornets, it could be that one of their seven victories this season came against Atlanta. That was an Oct. 23 road win, with Kelly Oubre Jr. pouring in 24 points.
The Hornets should have a boost with point guard LaMelo Ball back for his second game since his latest injury. He racked up 23 points and 11 assists in his return Wednesday night.
They also could get forward Gordon Hayward back. Hayward reportedly is hopeful to return after missing the past nine games with a fractured left shoulder. Hayward will make a final decision after the team’s shootaround.
The Hawks are looking at an injury situation from a different perspective. They lost center Clint Capela due to right calf tightness in the fourth quarter of Wednesday night’s game. The team announced Thursday that he has a calf strain and will miss one to two weeks.
–Field Level Media