The Charlotte Hornets fell short in their final home game of the 2023-24 season after losing to the Dallas Mavericks 130-104. Charlotte wanted to close out their home stand strong not just to get a win on the board, but for Steve Clifford as well. Clifford is elevating to a front office advisory role at the end of the season, so he coached his last game in front of the fans in Buzz City. Before the game the Hornets showed their appreciation by having a framed jersey presented to him before the game.

Steve Clifford reacts to pregame tribute for his last home game

“It was nice. Really nice,” Clifford told reporters after the game. “I appreciate everybody’s organization of that. That’s something that I’ll treasure going forward. Obviously Kemba (Walker) and Marvin (Williams) I’m really close with because I coached them a lot longer. I have a really good relationship with Brandon (Miller) and I’m looking forward to having that grow over these next few years as long as I’m still here. That’ll be something that I’ll take and when I’m by myself I’ll watch it.”

Clifford is the Hornets leader in wins all-time with the organization after having two different stints with the team. He was also the last coach to get them into the postseason back in 2016. The Hornets are still a relatively young franchise. They've been around since 1988 and he's coached seven of them, the most in franchise history.

Now for the bad news for the Hornets

Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford reacts to a call against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second quarter at Target Center.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the last two weeks of the regular season have felt like a retirement tour for Clifford, he still wants to get wins and get better. It was hard to bask in the Hornets tribute after Luka Doncic and the Mavericks had their way with them early. Doncic dropped 21 points in the first nine minutes of the game.

“We just came out so flat. (Doncic) was great. He made five 3s, I believe, in the first quarter. I think four of them were just isos. We’re playing from a hole. To me, we never really, really got going in the game. We made a run at it but we didn’t play with nearly the intensity level that we have been.”

Grant Williams reflects on playing against his former team, Luka Doncic

The Hornets Grant Williams faced off against the Mavericks for the first time since being traded from there and had nothing but nice things to say about Dallas' impact out in Charlotte.

“Luka (Doncic) is a special talent and made incredible shots, but he was able to get a lot of those off offensive rebounds by (Daniel) Gafford or their wings. They set the tone from the start. For our team, we’ve been pretty good with the physicality and coming in prepared for games, but tonight it just felt like our energy was kind of there but we didn’t have the physicality or the presence. For our team to have success, we have to have both.”

Charlotte has three more games to cap off their season and they're all on the road. Atlanta, Boston, and Cleveland will be the venues for those matchups. All three teams still have something to play for this late in the season. Maybe Charlotte can come in with the right energy and physicality in those games.