NBA

Hornets coach Steve Clifford rips team after overtime loss to Pistons: ‘All we care about is scoring’

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford was fed up after his team’s 141-134 overtime loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. Instead of his usual post-game press conference, Clifford sat down and delivered a two-minute rant without taking a single question. 

Clifford ripped into his team’s lack of defensive effort, saying there’s not one guy on the team playing the right way on that side of the ball. His comments in full:

“You don’t have to ask questions. Until we care about something besides how many points we score we’re not gonna win much. Can’t play like that. Our offense was good — that’s five of the last seven games we’ve been pretty good on offense. 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, our pick-and-roll stuff — all stuff that was good, I think we were as high as 12th or 13th in defense about 10 games ago. We’re right back to where we started ground zero, where all we want to be is let’s try to outscore the other team.

“That doesn’t work in the NBA. It never works. What I just told them: This is either you build a game that will actually work at the end of the year when you play the important games, or you don’t. That’s it, that’s what the NBA is all about. It’s not that we don’t have the talent to do it, all we care about is scoring. That’s it. If you’re gonna try to play like that, you better have like five All-Stars and we don’t have that kind of talent. It’s not something that will work. We’re either gonna decide to get back to playing with a defensive effort — it’s not that we’re not trying to win, it’s we’re going about it all wrong.

“Watch team after team. There’s always a team every year that they get there and what happens? They get drilled because they don’t have the right kind of game. You can’t just outscore people in the NBA. You can’t. And you can’t decide that you’re not gonna do the things that take effort like rebounding, or getting loose balls, or putting your body in front of the ball. You can’t. It just doesn’t work that way, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now.”

Wednesday night’s defeat was the sixth in a row for the Hornets, who now have the worst record in the league at 7-21. This has been a miserable season in Charlotte due to a parade of injuries and Miles Bridges‘ departure due to domestic violence charges. Even LaMelo Ball’s return after another month on the sideline due to a second ankle injury this season was not enough to get the Hornets back in the win column. 

Given the circumstances, the Hornets aren’t expected to win many games this season. But playing the right way has nothing to do with talent, and it’s clear that Clifford — who was re-hired this summer for his second stint with the franchise — has had enough. A coach calling out his team to this extent in the media is a rare occurrence, and it only happens after his efforts to get through to them in private have failed. 

During this losing streak, the Hornets have been particularly bad on defense. Their 120.9 defensive rating is worst in the league during that stretch by a significant margin, and opponents are shooting 50.5 percent from the field against them. They’ve been on the wrong end of some bad shooting luck — opponents are making 41 percent of above the break 3-pointers in the last six games — but that doesn’t tell the whole story. 

As Clifford put it time and again, they aren’t showing enough commitment to that side of the ball. Until that changes, their results won’t either. 



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