Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets top Washington Wizards, break two-game losing streak

Cody Zeller injury update

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego on Cody Zeller’s sore knee.
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Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego on Cody Zeller’s sore knee.

The Charlotte Hornets got a flicker out of their playoff chances Friday with a much-needed road victory over the Washington Wizards, 116-110, at Capital One Arena.

Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker finished with 28 points, holding off the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, who scored 40. A Hornets lead that reached 21 in the first half was down to seven in the final two minutes. Jeremy Lamb assembled a 3-point play late to secure the victory, which broke a two-game losing streak.

The Hornets (31-37) play the last of four consecutive road games Sunday afternoon against the Miami Heat. The Wizards fell to 29-40.

Lamb scored 18 off the bench and Nic Batum scored 16, including two big second-half 3-pointers in holding off a Wizards’ run.

Three who mattered

Beal: He’s had one of the NBA’s best seasons, but it isn’t reflected in the Wizards’ record.

Walker: Two minutes into the second half he reached 20 points for the 49th time this season.

Bismack Biyombo: Very solid as a fill-in Hornets starter at center.

Observations

With center Cody Zeller missing his second consecutive game with a sore left knee, Hornets coach James Borrego started Biyombo. That made for the ninth different starting combination this season (Walker-Batum-Miles Bridges-Marvin Williams-Biyombo).

Borrego said pregame he’s hopeful Zeller will be available to play in Sunday’s day game in Miami. The Hornets got back three other players who missed Monday’s loss at Houston — Batum (eye abrasion), Williams (illness) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (left knee strain).

The Hornets have had to overcome some awful first quarters of late, but not Friday: They 40-26 entering the second quarter, shooting 17-of-28 from the field.

Walker has looked fatigued at times lately. The three days between games appeared to rejuvenate him. He attacked aggressively from tip-off Friday, scoring nine first-quarter points.

The Wizards trailed by as much as 21 points in the first half. It was a 13-point Hornets lead at halftime. Much of the Wizards’ misery first half resulted from turnovers. The gave up the ball 14 times before halftime, resulting in 27 Hornets points.

Worth mentioning

Veteran Shelvin Mack, who the Hornets claimed off waivers in February for insurance at point guard, was inactive behind rookie Devonte Graham.

Hornets guard Malik Monk appeared to be back out of the core rotation after getting minutes in Houston Monday resulting from all the injuries.

Williams missed Monday in Houston with an illness, and he didn’t have a good start Friday, missing his first seven shots.

They said it

“I think it’s been successful in stretches...But if we go there too much, there have been negative effects at times.” – Borrego on going small in the front court this season with Williams at center and Kidd-Gilchrist at power forward.

“You have to mix it up on him. Play big on him and play some small lineups, as well.” – Borrego on the problem this season containing Portis, both as a Bull and after the trade to the Wizards.

“He scores in so many different ways. When he gets hot, it’s hard to turn his game off.” – Wizards coach Scott Brooks on Walker.

Report card

B+ OFFENSE: Really good 3-point shooting on the road.

B DEFENSE: Forced a bunch of first-half Wizards turnovers and contained Portis, who has been a big problem offensively.

B+ COACHING: Fixed the first-quarter problem for one game at least; a game they badly needed.

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.


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