Early Hole Buries Hornets in Cleveland
When Al Jefferson connected from 17 feet out at the 5:33 mark of the Monday night meeting between the Charlotte Hornets against the Cleveland Cavaliers, it was more than just an average first-quarter jumper—it was Charlotte’s first bucket of the game.
The Hornets went 0-for-9 with three turnovers to start the game, allowing the Cavs to race out to a 21-0 lead at Quicken Loans Arena. Charlotte eventually cut the deficit to just two in the third quarter, but with little left in the tank down the stretch, Big Al and Co. came up short in a 97-88 loss.
“Being 21 down against an elite team on their floor is tough to overcome,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “We played a good enough offensive game to win against a terrific team, but our first-quarter defense was obviously poor.”
The Postman had 14 points, eight rebounds and two assists in 32 minutes of work against the Cavs. The big fella helped his squad outscore Cleveland inside, 42-32.
Despite Al’s work, that poor start just doomed the Hornets from the get-go. After the cold streak-snapping bucket from No. 25, Kemba Walker tallied 11 points and the Hornets trailed 34-17 after one.
To start the second quarter, Charlotte took its turn with a 15-4 run. After a brief answer by LeBron James and the Cavs, Marvin Williams and Brian Roberts went back-to-back from three, followed by a Walker floater that made it just 43-40 Cleveland. Shortly thereafter, the Cavs rebounded and built the advantage back to nine for halftime.
The Big Fella gave his best effort in the third quarter in an attempt to close the gap of nine coming out of the locker rooms at halftime. He started by converting his first field goal attempt of the second half from five feet out, then another from nine feet out, chipping away at the Cleveland lead.
With 8:08 left to play in the third, Al assisted Stephenson on a 13-foot jump shot that cut the deficit to just two points, 59-57, capping a 12-5 run that began with No. 25’s quarter-opening bucket.
However, in answer to Charlotte’s run, Cleveland took control once again, ending the third on a 21-11 spell to enter the fourth with a 12-point lead, 80-68. In the final frame, the Hornets cut the deficit back below single digits for the final minute, but James—who had a game-high 27 points and 13 assists—knocked down two clutch buckets, including a three with 22 seconds to go, and the Cavs walked away with the victory.
“We did fight back, but we couldn’t maintain. Too many mistakes on the defensive end,” Walker said. “That’s been a problem for us—a lot of mistakes defensively. You can’t do that in this league, and especially not against (the Cavs). You’ve got to try to limit your mistakes. Every time we made a mistake, they made us pay.”
After a day of rest, Charlotte (6-18) will return home to host the Phoenix Suns (12-14).
Phoenix has been hovering around the .500 mark all season, guided by its three-guard attack of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas.
Losers of six straight, the Suns will be hungry for a victory in the Queen City, particularly after suffering a heartbreaking last-second defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks Monday night.
The Hornets and the Suns are slated to tip at 7 p.m. EST and will be broadcast on Sport South.
- Slow start dooms Charlotte against Cavs (Hornets.com, Dec. 16, 2014)
- James, Cavs jump out to 21-0 lead, beat Hornets (AP, Dec. 15, 2014)
- Hornets at Cavs: Game Book (NBA.com, Dec. 15, 2014)
- Hornets can’t overcome early deficit, lose to Cavs (Charlotte Observer, Dec. 16, 2014)
- Hornets come back from 21-0 deficit, still lose (At The Hive, Dec. 15, 2014)
- Game Quotes: Cavaliers vs. Hornets (Cavs.com, Dec. 15, 2014)