"They got sick of losing, and now they're playing better," Clifford said bluntly after the Hornets routed the Toronto Raptors 113-78 on Friday night at the Spectrum Center.
For sure, the Hornets played like a team intent on putting a recent five-game losing streak behind them and gaining momentum while they are in the middle of a five-game homestand.
They outscored the Raptors 58-30 in the second half, leading by as many as 37 points despite resting most of their starters throughout the fourth quarter. It was their most-lopsided win of the season.
Kemba Walker led the way with 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting from the field, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range. He didn't play at all in the fourth quarter, with the Hornets in a back-to-back situation with Brooklyn coming to town on Saturday.
"I got into one of them zones," said Walker, who scored 40 in a loss to the Raptors earlier this season. "I mean, it just feels like you can make any shot. I don't know, it's hard to explain.
"When you are in that zone, you just kind of black out. You just try to stay aggressive and take the shots that you've been practicing, that you practice each and every day. Tonight was a good night for me."
The Hornets (22-21) are now back above .500 after falling a game below .500 for the first time all season earlier in the week. They snapped the five-game skid with a 107-85 victory over Portland on Wednesday night.
Clifford was particularly pleased with the defense again as Charlotte held Toronto to 33.7 percent shooting from the field. The Raptors were just 7 of 30 from 3-point range and finished the game with an almost unheard-of 10 assists.
"Start to finish, obviously that's as good as we've played," Clifford said. "These last two games, obviously we've been locked in defensively."
He then immediately pointed to Saturday night's game against Brooklyn as a huge barometer of where his team really is.
"It's a good win, but we have to forget about it quickly because you have a team coming in tomorrow night that put 120 on us the last time we played them," Clifford said. "They're scoring big numbers. So tomorrow night will be one of those nights that determines what kind of team we're going to be.
We've got to find a way to come back with the same concentration and attention to detail and defensive disposition, determination, whatever you want to call it."
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist contributed 11 rebounds and a solid defensive effort against Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, who finished with 23 points -- five below his average.
Kyle Lowry led the Raptors with 24 points. The only other Raptor in double figures was Jonas Valanciunas with 11.
The Raptors (28-15) were also held below 40 percent from the field in a loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday night.
"It was one of those things," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We are going through something right now, our rhythm on both ends of the floor, offensively, defensively. We took some tough shots early, kind of got us in a rut, and it just kept spiraling.
"It goes back to our defense. If you don't get stops when your offense is not rolling the way you want it to, you're in trouble. Then when we did get stops, we didn't come up with the rebound."
The Hornets held a 51-33 rebound edge.
"This team, they came out with a purpose," Casey said. "We didn't. So we have to fight our way out of this. Nobody's going to feel sorry for us. It's up to us."
NOTES: The Raptors won the only previous game this season, 113-111 on Nov. 11 in Charlotte. The teams will meet two more times later in the season, both times in Toronto. ... The Raptors were without F Patrick Patterson (sore knee) and C Lucas Nogueira (concussion). ... The Hornets were without G Jeremy Lamb (metatarsal inflammation). ... Raptors G Kyle Lowry and referee Tony Brothers carried on a running feud much of the game. Brothers called a technical foul on Lowry in the second quarter and made several phantom calls against the Raptors during the game. ... The Raptors were finishing a three-game road trip. They return home to face Phoenix on Sunday. ... The Hornets were playing the second game of a five-game homestand. They'll host Brooklyn on Saturday. ... The Hornets are 3-0 this season in their black "Buzz City" uniforms.