With at least two days off before Charlotte’s first playoff game and possibly three, Hornets coach Steve Clifford wanted to get everyone involved Wednesday night.
The starters needed to play so that they wouldn’t go nearly a week between games, but the guys down the bench also needed to see some shine.
Charlotte put every active player on the floor in its 117-103 win against Orlando. The Hornets finished the season 48-34 and earned the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
“What I think is just as important is guys like Tyler (Hansbrough), Jeremy Lamb, Troy (Daniels) and Jorge (Gutierrez), you never know when your number is going to be called in the playoffs,” Clifford said.
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Clifford saw his team’s lead, which swelled to as many as 22 points, shrink to two in the fourth quarter, but he stuck with his pre-game mission. The wire-to-wire win was the third of the season for Charlotte.
Three who mattered
Al Jefferson: The big man tallied his seventh 20-plus-point game of the season with a 26-point performance.
Aaron Harrison: He only had six points but he held together a struggling backcourt in the second half when Gutierrez dealt with shooting and ball-handling issues.
Jeremy Lamb: He made some clutch shots down the stretch while playing more minutes (30) than any other Hornets player. His 12 points and nine rebounds were key in the win.
▪ Nic Batum missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. Clifford said the team doctors are “optimistic” he’ll be ready by the weekend.
▪ Cody Zeller returned from missing one game (sternum contusion) and contributed three points in 13 minutes, all of which came in the first half.
▪ Because ESPN dropped the Magic-Hornets game for Heat-Celtics, the Hornets finished the regular season without a nationally televised game. That won’t be the case in the playoffs.
▪ Since Feb. 1, the Hornets went 25-9, which finished as the third-best winning percentage (.736) in that time span. Only the Warriors and Spurs had better marks.
▪ Jeremy Lin recently said that he will debut a new, interesting hairstyle for the playoffs, though he wouldn’t reveal what it’d be.
▪ Marvin Williams became the first player in Hornets’ history – and only the fourth player in the NBA this season – to finish with 500-plus rebounds and 150-plus made 3-pointers. Williams joined Paul George, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love.
▪ Charlotte shot 61.5 percent in the first quarter against an uninspired Magic team. The 38 first-quarter points were one shy of tying the most in a first quarter all season for the Hornets.
▪ Wednesday’s game still had some meaning, but it’s tough to imagine most wanted to see Kemba Walker dive into photographers for a long outlet pass in the second quarter. But it did lead to a 3-pointer.
They said it
“I think he plays a lot more aggressive offensively. He’s a veteran. He’s played in a lot of big games.” – Clifford on guard Courtney Lee’s development since October.
“50 wins is always kind of the mark of what an exceptional season is in the NBA. And the recipe to do that is 30 at home and 20 on the road. We had 18 on the road after a poor start, and getting 30 wins at home would be a big deal.” – Clifford, whose team finished 30-11 at home this year.
“When those guys play well, it’s not even close. They’re overpowering. Their skill level and basketball IQ is like nothing I’ve ever seen.” – Clifford on the Golden State Warriors before they went for their record 73rd win of the season.
A- OFFENSE: This offense made plays when it had to. Charlotte’s lead was cut to two points and the Hornets were able to drain the shots necessary to hold on.
B- DEFENSE: With mostly reserves in the second half, the Hornets held the Magic close to its season average of 102 points per game.
A- COACHING: Clifford’s Hornets didn’t adjust well to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter, but their sharp shooting down the bench made the coach’s life easier.