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Do the Hornets Actually Blow Leads?

If you’re like me, you probably have screamed at your television when the Hornets blew a double digit lead twice in four games the last two weeks. This is something that feels like it takes place on the regular for the Hornets. So much so that my colleague Dylan Jackson memed about it. It’s exhausting and frustrating, especially for a team in playoff contention where every game matters.

After a blown lead and eventual loss to the Houston Rockets a week and a half ago, I tilted, said some things, and threw some things. Don’t judge me, I’m passionate. That is where this column came to light. How do the Charlotte Hornets perform when they have a double digit lead? I dove into the stats to find out. 

The Hornets have held a double digit lead in 36 games this season. They are 28-8 in those games. It’s okay, my jaw hit the floor too. Basketball is a game of runs, every coach, player, and analyst knows this. But when it feels like every double digit lead comes down to a coin flip in the final minutes, how is it possible to have a record that good? Maybe not even good because those are seemingly eight frustrating losses, but way better than expected? 

Of course 28-8 is just the surface. Let’s dive deeper. I want to work backwards and funnel down. In games where the Hornets have led by twenty-five points or more the club is 9-0. Needless to say, maintaining massive leads are not a problem for the Hornets. 

When Charlotte has a lead of 16-24 they are 11-3 in those contests. Those three losses are to the Thunder, Clippers, and Knicks. Oklahoma City is a top three team in the Western Conference with two incredible talents in Paul George and Russell Westbrook, thus this one becomes more forgivable. The Clippers shot SEVENTY FIVE percent from three, coupled by then-Clipper Tobias Harris scoring 34. The Knicks loss was the most inexcusable when Emmanuel Mudiay notched a career high 34 points in the overtime win.  

Finally, in games when the Hornets have a lead between ten and fifteen they are 7-5. Those games come down to essentially a coin-flip. The Milwaukee Bucks have handed Charlotte two of those L’s, with the most recent being Saturday’s competition. Charlotte played very well in the first half and then had the tides turn in the second. The previously mentioned Houston Rockets game is part of the five losses, too. The box score was relatively even, but the Hornets had eighteen turnovers. That is one way to easily lose a lead.

The Rockets had five players contribute 15 or more points, with James Harden and Clint Capela combining for 53. On December 5th, the Minnesota Timberwolves rallied from a fifteen point first half deficit. Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins channeled their inner Jimmy Butler by bullying the Hornets for a combined 61. Derrick Rose added sixteen points off the bench, too. Finally, the Atlanta Hawks came back after the Hornets commanded an early thirteen point lead. Atlanta was on a ten game losing streak. We’ve expressed our frustration with Kemba Walker carrying the load for this team which is what made this loss even worse. Charlotte had six players in double figures, led by Malik Monk who poured in 26. 

We can break this 28-8 record down in other ways as well. The easiest is home and road splits. We’ve seen this team catch fire at home, so it’s not surprising that they are 20-4 in games when they have established a double digit lead at Spectrum Center. On the road they are 8-4 in such contests. Not great, but better than expected. 

Another way we can examine this is by looking at conferences. Against Eastern Conference teams, Charlotte is 23-4 compared to the Western Conference where they are 5-4. Of course the West is superior to the East, and we’ve seen how rough Charlotte has looked against teams in the opposing conference. It’s worth noting that Charlotte has secured double digit leads against some teams multiple times. The Milwaukee Bucks are the most prominent. Charlotte has jumped on them three times this season (leads of 14, 14, and 25), but are 1-2 in those games. The Atlanta Hawks have found themselves scraping four times vs the Hornets. Charlotte is 3-1 in those games. Three times the Knicks have been put in a deep hole, and the Hornets are 2-1 in those events. Lastly, the Detroit Pistons are 0-3 when the Hornets sting them by ten-plus (14, 15, 21). 

Lastly, we can sort these stats by playoff team. These playoff teams are from the standings on 3/12/19. Seventeen times the Charlotte Hornets have captured a double digit lead against playoff teams. They are 12-5 in those games. Those twelve wins come against Brooklyn (twice), Detroit (thrice), Miami (twice), Indiana, Denver, Milwaukee, Boston, and San Antonio. That is one hell of a list if you ask me. 

The Charlotte Hornets have a tendency to get up on teams early. While it may feel like they blow leads quite often, and maybe they do in the micro of the game, 78% of the time it does not impact the end result when the final buzzer sounds. So next time the Hornets have a double digit lead, stay calm because (way) more likely than not, everything is going to be all right. 

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