NBA Basketball

Hornets host Blazers, hope to keep playoff push going

The Charlotte Hornets continue their playoff push Sunday afternoon at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, who are 4-1 on a road swing with two games left on their trip.

The Hornets are locked in a battle to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, and they can use all the help they can get.

Even from Frank Kaminsky.

Kaminsky, who had appeared in only five games this calendar year, scored 15 points off the bench in Friday night's 123-112 win at Brooklyn that closed the gap between Charlotte and the sixth-place Nets.

Charlotte got its usual scoring against the Nets -- 25 from Kemba Walker, 22 from Jeremy Lamb and 17 from Nic Batum -- but coach James Borrego also opted to dust off the 7-foot Kaminsky, figuring the fourth-year pro could be useful against a potential Nets' zone.

He had 15 points, seven rebounds and made 7 of 12 shots from the field in 24 minutes.

"He was fantastic," Borrego said.

"You have to give Frank a lot of credit. It's been a frustrating year for him. I understand that, and he stayed ready. He kept doing his work, and we went to him and he delivered tonight. He was fantastic. We probably don't get this game done without Frank. You never know when your opportunities are going to come. He stayed ready, he stayed consistent with his work and tonight it paid off."

It's unclear if Kaminsky earned a larger role moving forward, but the focus of the Portland game figures to be on all the high-scoring guards.

Portland's backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 59 points Friday night in a 119-117 loss at Toronto that ended a five-game winning streak. Lillard and McCollum combine to average 47.1 points this season.

Considering it was the fifth game of a road trip, that the Raptors are one of the best teams in the NBA and that the Blazers were without big man Enes Kanter (worried about travel outside the United States because of his criticism of the Turkish government), Portland wasn't going to sweat the close loss.

"That was a really good basketball game," Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said in his postgame comments.

"Two good teams played a very good game. I like the way we competed, getting down 16 on the road against a team like that and make a comeback, take the lead. Obviously it's disappointing to lose the game but I liked the way we competed."

Portland has improved to 14-16 on the road during this trip, in which it has picked up wins at Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Boston. The Blazers, making a push for third place in the West, wrap up the swing Tuesday at Memphis.

Charlotte's backcourt is a strength, led by the All-Star Walker, who is averaging 25.2 points. Lamb has been coming off the bench since the All-Star break as Borrego looks for more defense in the starting lineup (rookie forward Miles Bridges) and more scoring punch off the bench. Lamb is averaging 15.2 points per game.

Portland had an easy time in the teams' first meeting of the season, winning 127-96 at home on Jan. 11. Lillard and McCollum combined for 50 points in that game.

--Field Level Media

Updated March 2, 2019

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