In effect, this Charlotte Hornets victory counts for two.
The Hornets beat the Detroit Pistons 118-103 Friday and in doing so clinched a tiebreaker over the Pistons. The Hornets now have tiebreakers over Detroit, the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls, three teams pursuing them in the Eastern Conference standings.
The victory made the Hornets 36-28. This is the first time a Charlotte NBA team has been eight games above .500 since the 2000-01 season.
Power forward Marvin Williams got the Hornets going, matching his career high with five 3-pointers made. Center Al Jefferson was strong off the bench in the fourth quarter in maintaining the lead. The Hornets benefitted from foul trouble for Pistons center Andre Drummond.
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The Hornets play Saturday, again at home, against the Houston Rockets.
Three who mattered
Williams: He matched a career-high with five 3-pointers made.
Walker: He gave the Pistons no choice but to keep sending him to the foul line.
Cody Zeller: He did a solid job defensively on Drummond.
▪ Entering Friday’s game Walker had the third-highest scoring average in the NBA in March. His 31.6 ppg., topped by Houston’s James Harden (36 ppg.) and Portland’s Damian Lillard (33.4).
▪ The Hornets entered the Pistons game seven games above .500. Last time that happened was April of 2010.
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford said pre-game he didn’t plan to remind the players of the tiebreaker implications. Clifford said they appeared focused at shootaround and they probably already knew a win would clinch the tiebreaker with Detroit.
▪ The Hornets scored 39 points in the first quarter Wednesday versus the New Orleans Pelicans. They reached 38 points first-quarter versus the Pistons.
▪ The Hornets made eight 3-pointers first-quarter Wednesday and five on Friday.
▪ The Pistons got back Stanley Johnson and Anthony Tolliver from injuries.
▪ Drummond banked in a free throw in the first half.
▪ Williams made three of four 3-point attempts in the first half.
They said it
“Two or three teams will get better. It happens every year. And those will be the teams that don’t just make it, but will be playing in a manner where they will win a playoff series.” – Hornets coach Steve Clifford on the need for further improvement.
“Most importantly, we love playing for coach; he encourages us every day, pushes us every day, and that’s why we get better..” – Williams on Clifford.
“On off days guys are getting shots up. All the hard work is paying off in the games.” – Walker on extra effort in the playoff push.
A OFFENSE: This is the diversity they aspire to, with a great mix of 3s, post-ups and pick-and-rolls.
B DEFENSE: They were strong at converting live-ball turnovers into easy baskets.
A COACHING: Never easy or fun for Steve Clifford to coach against his mentor, Stan Van Gundy.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell