After Steve Clifford criticized the Charlotte Hornets for their lack of physicality during their four-game losing streak, the team responded to the message.
The Charlotte Hornets were in the midst of one of their worst stretches of the season when they lost four straight on the road. Head coach, Steve Clifford, took the onus upon himself to call out the team for their poor play, mainly for their physicality, or lack thereof. After the criticism, the players responded as they had one of their best performances against their divisional rivals in the Atlanta Hawks.
Charlotte’s four-game skid came against some stiff competition in the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Indiana Pacers, the Washington Wizards, and the Boston Celtics. All of those outings came on the road against three playoff squads from last season, but there was still no excuse for their poor play in areas where they typically dominate.
Coach Clifford and the team had somewhat high expectations heading into their first extended road trip of the season. Steve said “2-3 wouldn’t surprise him” before the trip started but the 1-4 record and the 0-4 start obviously didn’t sit well with the Hornets’ head coach.
That was clear from his comments after their loss to the Wizards in Washington. “Clifford used the word “physicality” in just about every sentence of a severe critique of his team’s play. The summation: “I’m sick of looking at it,” Clifford said.” (CharlotteObserver.com)
Steve Clifford was distinctly upset about the lack of physicality. He constantly mentioned the team’s physicalness and how it was not up to par.
Charlotte’s coach also added that “The game came down to physical play. If guys aren’t willing to be more physical, we’ll be an up-and-down team, we’ll struggle to make the playoffs,” Clifford said. “If we want to play with the physicality we choose to at times, we have a chance to be a good team.”
Whether it be rebounding, points in the paint, or just being more physical on every play, none of these seemed to be to Clifford’s liking. Just by watching the games, you could tell that the Hornets weren’t playing the style of basketball that has made them successful over the past year and a half. This is a team that prides themselves on their defense and when physicality is lacking at the NBA level, a team’s defense will drop off as a result.
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Coach Clifford even went as far to say that the lack of physicality is their greatest weakness.
“It’s our greatest weakness,” Clifford implored. “It’s evident (against) teams that aren’t even physical off the ball.”
“I’ve been telling them for three weeks now: (Other teams are saying) ‘Make it hard on them. Bump them off every cut, bump them off every screen.’ Sooner or later, we have to respond.”
After these comments bashing the team, they were able to rebound against their division rivals in the Hawks. The Hornets came out with an edge in that one as their screens were a little bit harder, their back outs were a little better, and they were bumping Atlanta’s players every chance they got. Cody Zeller was so physical the whole night that he got into Dwight Howard‘s head and forced him to commit a technical foul.
Not to mention, that the Charlotte Hornets also recorded their most points in the paint, fewest turnovers, and most made field goals during the road trip against Atlanta. They played their most complete game against the Hawks and credit to Steve Clifford for getting through to his team when they were struggling and in a rough stretch.
Now that the Charlotte Hornets have put the tough road trip behind them and ended it with a win, they can move forward and look to build for the remainder of the season. Steve Clifford demands a certain level of physical play for each player on the team and they will need to keep it up if they want to be successful.