So there is good news and bad news for the Charlotte Hornets on Friday against the Atlanta Hawks.

The good news is Gordon Hayward returned from shoulder injury and joined the starting lineup. He finished with nine points, three rebounds, and five assists in 29 minutes. Clearly a little bit rusty, but something that he can shake off with time. He's just a little flat on some jumpers and missed some easy ones around the basket, shooting the ball 3-of-9 from the field.

The bad news is the Hornets have now lost seven straight games. Steve Clifford was thankfully more optimistic after this loss compared to the loss on December 14th against the Detroit Pistons in overtime. He went on a two-minute rant about his team's lack of attention to detail on defense, but that improved this time around.

“I just told them, I thought our defense was a lot better. The fouling just crushed us. We were much more purposeful. Even in the first quarter, we didn’t score offensively, but we got good shots, the ball was moving. I thought we had good energy,” Clifford shared.

The Hawks attempted 34 free throws compared to the Hornets' 19 attempts. Cliff is spot on with everything in his assessment. Charlotte was able to muster up a nice third quarter run to come within six points to end the quarter 98-92. They just could not keep it up in the fourth quarter.

Fortunately, LaMelo Ball shined in his second consecutive game to make this one exciting to watch. He finished with a team-high 27 points. He is settling back into his groove after cashing out on seven 3-pointers. With Hayward returning to the lineup, it could brew some optimism within the organization that a run is coming soon hopefully. Ball definitely appreciates Hayward being back on the floor just a game after he made his comeback.

“It was great having Gordon back. He can shoot, play defense…so yeah, it was great having him back,” Ball added

The Hornets have a tough six game road trip out West. It will be a challenge to get the team back up to snuff to be play-in team. Hayward admits that their is a sense of urgency to right the ship and it all starts on the defensive side of the ball.

“We’ve got to try to figure it out here. It certainly won't get any easier – it’s the NBA. Everybody's really good. We’ve just got to figure it out, and it's going to start on the defensive end for us. Every night’s not going to be good for us on the offensive side, especially when you go on the road, so we've got to give ourselves a chance, and that starts on the defensive end,” Hayward shared. “Tonight with the fouling, now we've got to walk the ball up the court and play against a set defense every time, which is hard. We've got so many athletes, we can run. So if we get stops, we can run, but first you’ve got to get stops.”

Lets see how this young group reacts with their backs essentially up against the wall. It should be a fun, exciting site to see.