Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― Just two short days ago, the Hornets were a gritty team, one that took the fight to a veteran and savvy Celtics team.
They were being lauded for doing what few people thought they’d be able to do.
But Friday night, we – and more importantly, the Hornets – learned that grit can take a team only so far.
If you don’t make shots, you won’t win games.
It’s the simplest truism in all of sports and against Phoenix it was fact.
The Hornets fell 93-78 to a team they beat just five days earlier thanks to 28.9 percent shooting, the second-lowest total in franchise history.
There’s the phrase they couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn.
Coach Monty Williams, who took the blame for not having the team ready to play, used a different cliché, but one that was still correct.
“We had 90 shots tonight and we couldn’t throw it in the ocean tonight,” Williams said.
New Orleans was without scorer Eric Gordon for the second consecutive game.
Against Boston, they didn’t need him. That was only going to last so long, though, and Friday night, they missed his shot-making presence.
Certainly, the difference between a win and a loss wasn’t missing Gordon.
It was missing the energy that colored the opening two games of the season, both gritty wins.
The Hornets out-rebounded the Suns by 10, including 24-10 on the offensive glass.
But it was the short shots that wouldn’t down, the “bunnies” as forward Carl Landry called them.
That’s where the wheels on the Hornets’ bus started wobbling.
Psychologically, it’s hard to put forth full effort when even the easy stuff isn’t falling.
It took a near-scrum between Hornets forward Trevor Ariza and Suns center Robin Lopez with 8:36 to play for New Orleans to wake up.
By then it already was down 80-67.
The question is why would it take that long for New Orleans to wake from their slumber knowing it, of all seasons and teams, couldn’t afford that?
“I don’t know,” Landry said. “I can’t tell you. We’ve just got to make sure we’re ready every night. Nobody is counting on us to win at all, pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to rankings in the league.”
“We’ve got to bring it every night, play with energy, play with enthusiasm and definitely play Hornets basketball,” Landry added.
Friday night that didn’t happen.
And though the season is only three games in with 63 to go, this game was a reminder to the Hornets that they’re going to need max effort for the next four months.
Or else the exhilaration that comes with wins over Boston will become less frequent than the exasperation that comes with losses like Friday night’s.