Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte Hornets still in playoff chase after fourth straight win

Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges, left, drives past the Cavaliers’ Ante Zizic toward the basket during the second half Tuesday in Cleveland. Charlotte won 124-97.
Charlotte Hornets rookie Miles Bridges, left, drives past the Cavaliers’ Ante Zizic toward the basket during the second half Tuesday in Cleveland. Charlotte won 124-97. AP

The Charlotte Hornets did their part Tuesday, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers for their fourth straight victory.

Now, they need to beat the Orlando Magic at home in their final regular-season game, and hope they can catch the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Hornets clobbered the Cavs, 124-97, with Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb each scoring 23 points. They entered Tuesday a game behind the Pistons, but holding potential tiebreakers over both the eighth-place Pistons and the Miami Heat, the only other team in contention for that playoff slot.

The Pistons beat the Memphis Grizzlies 100-93 in Detroit. They will play the Knicks in New York on Wednesday.

The Hornets will face their former coach, Steve Clifford, who took the Magic job after being fired in April. The Magic already has qualified for the playoffs, and was off Tuesday, waiting in Charlotte for the game. Hornets-Magic will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Three who mattered

Walker: Beyond the obvious scoring impact, he’s stepped up his assists the past month.

Miles Bridges: Between the 3-pointers (4-of-5 Tuesday), passes and shot-blocking, he’s made strides the past two weeks.

Lamb: Continues to be this team’s second-most reliable scorer.

Observations

All the things Walker has done over eight seasons, and Tuesday was a first: He was charged with a flagrant foul in the middle of the second quarter. Walker has twice been voted the league’s best Sportsman by his fellow players.

While Hornets veterans Tony Parker and Marvin Williams were both active, neither played. Williams is still dealing with a right foot strain. Parker hasn’t played since the loss in Miami March 17, after which coach James Borrego went with rookie Devonte Graham as Walker’s backup at point guard.

Borrego said at morning shootaround that using Williams and Parker could certainly change, particularly if the Hornets qualify for the playoffs, which would be a matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks, top-seeded in the Eastern Conference.

Hornets rookie Miles Bridges looks so much more assertive the past two weeks, both with his 3-point shooting and his passing.

Worth mentioning

Hornets center Cody Zeller was again out with a sore and swollen left knee. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist missed his second game for personal reasons.

The Cavs sat out Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson, listing the reason as “rest.” Of course, since this was the Cavs’ last game of the season, Love and Thompson have six months to rest.

The Cavaliers’ arena is undergoing a renovation, and a name change to Rocket Mortgages Fieldhouse.

They said it

“I don’t think it was like that early; it was tough. We’ve kind of grown into this. There was a little bit of ‘Where is coach going?’ Now, we’re at a place where they’ve all made peace with it.”.” – Hornets coach James Borrego on building a trust with his players concerning his rotation changes.

“There are games when you’re asked to play a lot of minutes and different games where the matchups aren’t in your favor and he goes with different people. think he’s shown all season that he’s willing to change things up, and I think that’s great..” – Kaminsky on Borrego’s roster management.

Report card

A OFFENSE: Between the 3s and fast-break points, they purred along.

B- DEFENSE: The first quarter was reminiscent of some ugly games, but they recovered.

A COACHING: The balancing act between infusing some youth and continuing to try to win has been impressive.



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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