Wizards visit skidding Hornets with eye on playoffs
The Charlotte Hornets get a second straight chance to beat a team vying for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
They failed Wednesday night, when they lost 91-84 to visiting Miami, as the Heat moved into the eighth and final playoff spot while Charlotte fell a game behind.
On Friday night, the Hornets will host the Washington Wizards (27-37), who are two games behind Charlotte (29-35). This is the first of two remaining games between the teams, so Washington can make up that ground without any outside help.
"Yes, we are in it," Wizards All-Star guard Bradley Beal said at his locker after Wednesday's 132-123 win over the Dallas Mavericks. "That is where we are. Our goal is to make the playoffs until the fat lady sings at the end of the year. We have to keep pushing forward and take it a game at a time.
"We try to go week-by-week. We try to get four games every week. So far we are 2-0, and we have 18 more games left ... so we just have to make sure we are ready to go. We still have a great opportunity in front of us. We can win a lot of games and make some noise down the stretch."
Washington has won three of its past four. Charlotte has lost nine of 12 and has developed a habit of slow starts. The Hornets had allowed 30-plus points in the first quarter in nine consecutive games before giving up "only" 29 to Miami.
One of the Hornets' three victories in its 12-game slump came against the Wizards, 123-110 in Charlotte, N.C., on Feb. 22, as both teams returned from the All-Star break.
Washington won the first meeting of the season, a 130-126 result at home on Dec. 29.
This meeting could be quite of duel of All-Star guards. Beal scored 46 in the loss to Charlotte, while Hornets' guard Kemba Walker poured in 47 in the loss to the Wizards. Walker has scored 74 points in two games against Washington.
His nightly production of 25.0 points per game is almost a given, but Charlotte also has been getting the best totals of the season from backup center Frank Kaminsky.
The fourth-year pro had appeared in only five games this calendar year before coach James Borrego moved him ahead of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk in the rotation on March 1. Kaminsky -- who was looking for a contract buyout last month -- is averaging 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 25 minutes in the past three games.
He scored 15 fourth-quarter points against Miami en route to a season-high 20, while making 4 of 5 3-point attempts.
"I thought Frank was great tonight," Borrego said in his postgame press conference. "He helped us. We couldn't make a shot for the most part tonight, and he was one of those guys that looked for a shot, was confident, got to the rim some. He was aggressive for us offensively, so I thought Frank was excellent tonight."
Charlotte is wrapping up a three-game homestand before starting a difficult four-game trip that starts in Milwaukee and Houston before finishing up with rematches against Washington (March 15) and Miami.
The Wizards will continue on to Minnesota on Saturday night to complete a back-to-back set.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 7, 2019