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Charlotte Hornets’ victory over Detroit a blueprint for playoff run

The effort Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford saw from his team Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons is the kind the team will need to make a playoff run.
The effort Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford saw from his team Wednesday night against the Detroit Pistons is the kind the team will need to make a playoff run. rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

Remember all the way back to Monday when the Boston Celtics came to town and handled the Charlotte Hornets on Charlotte’s home court?

Many of you treated the game as if it was a concession speech. We, the Hornets, concede the possibility of the playoffs. When the postseason begins, we won’t be part of it. Thank you and good night.

The Boston game was puzzling and offensive. But it was neither a concession speech nor a statement. It was a loss.

Charlotte’s impressive 24-point victory against Detroit Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena also was not a statement. It was a victory. But it has meaning. It means that, whether you like it or not, Charlotte has a chance to make the playoffs.

The Bobcats went 7-1 last April and cruised into the playoffs. The Hornets this season are undefeated in April. They’re 1-0 but their schedule is daunting.

Kemba Walker led the Hornets against Detroit. Clearly this is his team, and they move to his beat. Walker can always get his shot. On Wednesday he hit his shot.

Walker scored 17 points on 13 field goal attempts and added six rebounds and four assists. All 17 points came in the first half. Six players scored in double figures and Bismack Biyombo added eight.

The Hornets played the way they must to win. They made almost as many free throws (17) as the Pistons attempted (18). They committed fewer turnovers. They scored 10 more points on the fast break. They shot a less than stunning 42.2 percent but helped hold Detroit to 35.2 percent.

And – and this is essential – the Hornets grabbed 55 rebounds to Detroit’s 51. They boxed out, they hustled and they were where they were supposed to be.

The Pistons are among the NBA’s most effective rebounding teams. They rank fourth. The Hornets are ninth.

The victory wasn’t a statement. It was a blueprint. How do you win without injured Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, one of your best players?

A Hornet – on this night it was Walker – made the game his. A surprise player had a fine game. Marvin Williams scored 18 points on only 11 field goal attempts.

The Hornets didn’t concede the lead. Most nights, they appear to be down by double-figures before they’re introduced.

They’ll bring the blueprint to Indianapolis Friday when they play the slumping Pacers, who trail the Hornets by half a game. The Hornets play Saturday at home against Philadelphia.

They’ll be favored against the 76ers. They likely won’t be favored again this season. After Philadelphia, they play six games, four of them on the road.

The reaction to the Boston loss was predictable. Some of us love to give up. It’s as if, instead of, say, a Duke flag hanging from the front of our house, we put up a white one. Oh, no, the Hornets lost to Boston and they won’t make the playoffs and they’ll never work in this town again.

If they fail to make the playoffs they could overcome outrageous odds and jump up in the lottery. But before you get worked up about the prospect, check the odds.

To avoid the lottery, coach Steve Clifford has to send the right players onto the floor and those players have to do almost everything right.

I like this stuff. I like the pressure and the competition.

But I, too, have to concede. I concede that, based on what I hear, few of you feel the same way.

Sorensen: 704-358-5119; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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