Takeaways from the Hornets’ 119-115 loss in Denver

Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier, left, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier, left, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Bruce Brown defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


Figuring it would aid in easing the difficulty of the road that lies ahead – literally – Steve Clifford changed things up a bit.

Instead of leaving Charlotte on Saturday to get to Denver for the first stop on a lengthy trek, which would typically be the case, the Hornets coach elected to have the team head to the Mile High City on Friday night.

“Just kind of get the trip out of us, run up and down a little bit,” Clifford said. “ It’s tough. You know, I even feel it a little bit here. But listen, it doesn’t mean we can’t play well. We’ll get more acclimated here as we go on.”

There are still some kinks the Hornets need to work out and they might have to do it without another one of their key players . A solid start morphed into another tough conclusion — in part because the Hornets couldn’t stop reigning MVP Nikola Jokic — as Charlotte began a six-game road trip with a 119-115 loss to Denver at Ball Arena on Sunday night.

Here’s the type of season it’s been for these Hornets: Even on a night when they finally had their starting lineup intact for the first time all season, the good health didn’t last very long. Terry Rozier sustained a right hip contusion late in the second quarter while diving to keep a loose ball in play and missed the second half, the latest blow for a team that’s had more than its share of ailments in the past three months.

“Look, it’s the way things have gone,” Clifford said. “Hopefully, it’s not serious. But one thing with him (is) he was in a lot of pain there. So, again, hopefully we’ll know more (Monday) and hopefully we’ll get good news.”

So not only did the Hornets (7-23) extend their losing streak to seven games, they could be without Rozier for Monday’s matchup with Sacramento. Here are some key takeaways from Charlotte’s 19th defeat in its past 23 outings:

Oubre eventually to be a super sub

PJ Washington returned after missing Friday’s game due to the birth of his child causing a shuffle in the Hornets’ rotation. Before Rozier’s injury, Washington’s reinsertion paired with Gordon Hayward logging a second straight game, meant someone had to shift to the bench.

That designation belonged to Kelly Oubre.

Until starting in Rozier’s place in the second half, Oubre came off the bench for the second straight game. He will transition into more of a sixth-man role, one previously occupied by Jalen McDaniels. Oubre will be expected to provide instant offense and give the Hornets a boost.

“That’s how this team was put together, right?” Clifford said. “That was the master plan. Kelly knows that. We’ve been talking about that all the time. … I think it’s a role that he can excel in.”

Clifford is pleased he can actually begin using some of the combinations he conjured up during the preseason, ones he thought could perhaps work well together. All the injuries have prevented it.

“I think as guys get acclimated,” Clifford said. “We just have more lineups where we can put pressure on the defense.”

Stop the hack

Once again, the Hornets had trouble keeping their hands to themselves and nothing much will change until they can stop giving opponents extra offensive opportunities. Charlotte amassed 26 fouls

Mason Plumlee collected three fouls within the initial 5:17, forcing him to the bench, and Kai Jones also had three in the first half. And-1s also continue to plague the Hornets. Washington picked up one on Bruce Brown in the second quarter where he didn’t foul hard enough to stop the shot attempt. The Hornets do that far too often.

It’s just not smart basketball, and that’s a point Clifford has tried to convey continuously.

“Fouling, especially in this league, when a guy gets a half a step on you, you’ve just got to say, ‘It’s make or miss.’ Make him make a shot and the numbers show that the worst possible thing you can do is foul. And the other night (against Atlanta) if you look at that game, they were shooting the bonus in the second quarter with like 8:47 (left). It’s going to be hard. They take a layup, which is by far the best shot you can take, and then flow of the game it’s like three more points per possession.

“There’s nothing you can do better than get fouled.”

Roderick Boone joined the Observer in September 2021 to cover the Charlotte Hornets and NBA. In his more than two decades of writing about the world of sports, he’s chronicled everything from high school rodeo to a major league baseball no-hitter to the Super Bowl to the Finals. The Long Island native has deep North Carolina roots and enjoys watching “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” endlessly.
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