|Hornets have good things going during four-game win streak|
|Reason for optimism in season's final third|
|Published Sunday, February 25, 2018 7:00 pm|
The Hornets are finally showing tangible progress, and it’s contributing to the bottom line.
Charlotte earned its season-high fourth straight win Sunday with a 114-98 result against Detroit at Spectrum Center. The 27-33 Hornets, who are 10th in the Eastern Conference, pulled within a game of ninth-place Detroit and four behind No. 8 Miami.
“I talked to them about the numbers,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “We have one of the easier schedules left, which in this league to be honest there is no easy games so I don’t know how big of a deal that is. It’s still about making progress.”
That Charlotte is making progress is no small accomplishment given the season. Key players have missed time with injury and Clifford was shelved for more than a month with headaches caused by sleep deprivation. With 22 games left in the regular season, Charlotte isn’t out of the postseason chase.
“We talk about it,” guard Michael Carter-Williams said. “We’re definitely trying to make a push for the playoffs and we know we have to win a lot of games and we’ve got to get some luck also. So we’re just trying to handle our part and go into each game and give it our all and try to win.”
Clifford uses last season as an example of what can happen when a struggling team gets on a late roll. The message he’s pushing is keep improving and the rest will take care of itself.
“The parallel that I keep using to them is that last year at the All-Star break we had 24 wins and Milwaukee had 25,” he said. “[Milwaukee] came back and went two for three then 14-4 and they ended up seven so there are a lot of ways to look at it. I think the way the older players look at it is they understand we have to play well. We have a quarter of our season left and in that time a lot of things can happen.”
The Hornets have shown measured progress in a couple of key areas: bench play and perimeter defense. With backups like center Cody Zeller and Carter-Williams healthy and contributing, the reserves are holding their own. Charlotte is also contesting three-point shots better.
“I think we just figured out how to trust each other and we’re moving the ball on offense,” Carter-Williams said. “Everybody is being unselfish, and then defensively we’re all clicking and moving as a unit. It took us a long time, but I think we’re there and we’re playing pretty good ball, but we just want to sustain it.”
Said Zeller: “It’s been maybe the best three or four games that we’ve played all season just because we’re starting to put it together, especially on the defensive end,” Zeller said. “Everyone is tied together. I think the All-Star break was good for us to kind of reset and we’re playing well so hopefully we keep it rolling.”
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