Charlotte Hornets

With a lineup change, Hornets hold off Wizards to break 2-game losing streak

Charlotte Hornets point guard depth

Hornets coach James Borrego on how Tony Parker’s return and acquisition of Shelvin Mack changes the point guard mix.
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Hornets coach James Borrego on how Tony Parker’s return and acquisition of Shelvin Mack changes the point guard mix.

Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego showed up from the All-Star break with a lineup shakeup Friday, and it worked out fine.

He started rookie Miles Bridges in place of veteran shooting guard Jeremy Lamb and the Hornets held off the Washington Wizards 123-110 to break a two-game losing streak. Kemba Walker closed this game with a three-point play, off a scoop shot and a free throw, late. Walker had his second 20-10 game of the season, with 27 points and 11 assists.

Miles Bridges vs Wizards.JPG
Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges (with ball) made his first NBA start Friday against the Washington Wizards at Spectrum Center. Chuck Burton AP

Bradley Beal was spectacular for the Wizards with 46 points, his season high. His career high is 51 points.

The Hornets improved to 28-30, looking to hold on to one of the last three playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards fell to 24-35.

The Hornets play another home game Saturday, a big one in the playoff chase, against the Brooklyn Nets.

Three who mattered

Walker: His 42nd game this season scoring 20 or more points, and he did it being more of a facilitator with his assists.

Batum: He had 12 second-quarter points, when the Hornets made up for a terrible first quarter.

Beal: In what has been an otherwise brutal season for the Wizards, he’s been excellent.

Observations

▪ This was the first NBA start for Bridges (14 points and six rebounds), who was the 12th overall pick in June. Lamb had started 54 previous games this season, missing three due to a right hamstring strain.

▪ Pre-game, Borrego said his top defensive priority is better protecting the paint. He sure didn’t get that at the start of this game, when the Wizards scored 20 of their 38 first-quarter points in the lane and shot 70 percent from the field.

▪ Tony Parker returned to the Hornets’ lineup after missing the last four games before All-Star break with a back strain. Shelvin Mack, acquired off waivers from the Atlanta Hawks, was the third option at point guard. How much Mack will play over the Hornets’ last 25 games is primarily contingent on how healthy Parker is the rest of the way.

▪ Adding Bridges to the starting lineup meant moving Batum from small forward to shooting guard, the position he played prior to this season in Charlotte. Must have agreed with him; he was 4-of-7 from 3-point range in the first half.

▪ Big-time defensive sequence for Hornets center Cody Zeller when he blocked back-to-back shots by Wizards center Thomas Bryant at the rim in the third quarter.

Worth mentioning

▪ The Hornets sent forward Dwayne Bacon and rookie guard Devonte Graham to the G-League Greensboro Swarm Friday for two weekend games. With Mack on the roster and Parker healthy (at least for now), Graham might not play a lot for the Hornets the rest of this season

▪ Former Hornets center Dwight Howard, who signed with the Wizards over the summer, has been out recovering from a lower-back surgery. Wizards coach Scott Brooks said pre-game he’s still hopeful Howard will play again this season. Howard is back in Washington,, stepping up individual workouts.

▪ Bismack Biyombo got the Hornets’ backup minutes at center Friday, ahead of Willy Hernangomez.

They said it

“Shelvin is a pro who is going to help our young guys and offer us some protection on Tony.” – Hornets coach James Borrego on the addition of veteran point guard Shelvin Mack, as insurance on keeping Parker, 36, healthy.

“Our top priority is to protect the paint. Nothing easy at the rim.” – Borrego on the need to step up the Hornets’ interior defense.

“How old is he? He seems to be ageless, keeps coming at you. I like playing against this team when he’s not playing .” – Brooks on Parker’s return.

Report card

B OFFENSE: Lamb beefed up the bench scoring.

C DEFENSE: That first quarter was awful, but they recovered in the second and third.

B COACHING: It was a horribly bad start, but they made up for that quickly in the second quarter.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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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