|Charlotte Hornets hit the road with playoff aspirations on the line|
|112-111 win vs. Wizards wrap homestand|
|Published Friday, March 8, 2019 11:00 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Marvin Williams scored 30 points in the Hornets' 112-111 win against Washington Friday at Spectrum Center.|
The Charlotte Hornets are running out of time.
While coach James Borrego noted that they have sat in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference for 93 percent of the season, their final 17 regular season games determine whether they advance to the NBA playoffs. Currently sitting 10th, Charlotte (30-35) begins a four-game road trip with a Saturday visit to East leader Milwaukee. Eleven of Charlotte’s remaining games are away from home before they wrap up the regular season at home against Orlando on April 10.
“If we put that effort out there tonight, tomorrow night, we’ll have a chance in all these games,” Borrego said after Friday’s 112-111 win against Washington (27-38) at Spectrum Center. “We have 17 games left—93 percent of this season, we’ve been a top eight team in the conference. Now it’s just time to battle.”
The Hornets responded after a season-low offensive performance of 84 points against Miami Wednesday. Charlotte came out strong in the first quarter, but managed their first win of the season when scoring less than 20 points in the second quarter. Forward Marvin Williams provided the offensive boost, scoring a season-high 30 points, 21 of which came from three-point territory. He tied his career-high of seven threes, shooting 7-of-10. Williams reinvented his three-point game the last time Charlotte made a trip to the playoffs in 2015-16. However, he insists that his shot had always been there, it merely became a matter of taking more chances from beyond the arc.
“I could always shoot,” Williams said. “I never felt like I couldn’t shoot. I just didn’t really shoot that many threes. I give a ton of credit to coach [Steve Clifford] and really Pat Delany. He completely changed the way I worked out in the summertime. I went from kind of shooting threes to only shooting threes. It really did change my game.”
NBA basketball favors perimeter shooting, and Williams sees that as an asset.
“I’ve benefited from the way the league has gone,” he said. “Playing smaller ball, and stretch fours are kind of shooting threes now. I definitely give a lot of thanks to Pat Delany for that.”
Having a consistent three-point shot is essential for young forwards like rookie Miles Bridges and second-year player Dwayne Bacon, too.
“Nowadays, no matter what position you play, one through five, everyone is shooting threes,” Williams said. “The league is playing with a lot of pace, and a lot of space. You’ve gotta be able to shoot it to be able to play out there on the court. So I think a lot of players around the NBA spend time shooting threes. Guys who may not have been shooting threes earlier in their career are definitely shooting now.”
Borrego has utilized Bridges in the starting rotation by moving guard Jeremy Lamb to the bench, providing a faster tempo for the second unit while Nic Batum shifted from forward to guard. However, against Washington, Borrego went with Bacon over Bridges in the second half.
“We had lost Michael Kidd-Gilchrist,” Borrego said. “They were playing small. We thought sliding Miles to the four would fit more in the second half. We liked Bacon in some matchups in the first half, and it just felt like the right move at that time. We brought Miles back in the second half as the four, with MKG out.”
Bacon has seen most of his playing time in Greensboro with Charlotte’s G-League affiliate, the Swarm. Yet against the Wizards, Bacon’s number was called, and he produced with 10 points, even if his teammates forgot he was there.
“He did a hell of a job,” Williams said. “A couple of us didn’t even know if he was in the game honestly until we saw him out there. He’s always been ready. He’s going to be in the NBA for a long time.”
Said Bacon: “I’ll play the game anywhere. Anytime they’ve said go down [to the G-League] I didn’t mind it. I like competing at any level. Basketball is basketball.”
Bacon’s physicality has been his strongest asset since he arrived in Charlotte, and the Hornets will need every bit of it to make a run at postseason play.
“That’s just how I get going, most times when I’m playing,” Bacon said. “Getting downhill, I know it’s kind of easy for me. I just try to strive for getting downhill, making the easy plays…I think I made the most of it tonight.”
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