Hornets visit Lakers, look for fifth straight win
Don't look now, but here come the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets have won a season-high four straight games heading into their matchup against the host Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, keeping them in the thick of the playoff hunt with eight games left.
Charlotte's last three wins have come against teams headed for the playoffs, most recently a 125-116 overtime win Tuesday night against the visiting San Antonio Spurs. That pulled the Hornets within 1 1/2 games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday.
The Hornets are trying to return to the postseason after missing out the past two years. They haven't won a playoff series since 2001-02.
"I'm proud of our group," Hornets coach James Borrego said. "For a young group, this is the first time we're doing this together. All of us."
The Lakers are coming off a 115-100 loss at the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, ending their first two-game winning streak since mid-January and guaranteeing a losing record for the sixth straight season.
"Whether it was tired legs or what, we just couldn't really find an offensive rhythm," Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
Walton rested LeBron James against the Jazz, so he should be fresh for the Hornets. Walton said he doesn't expect James to coast to the finish line in his first season in Los Angeles.
"I think (LeBron) takes it very serious," Walton said. "He's been the face of the NBA for however many years now. He's aware of that, and I think he takes that responsibility, he takes it very seriously."
The Hornets have received superb play from point guard Kemba Walker during the winning streak. He's averaging 30 points the past four games, scoring 38 against the Spurs.
"The ball can be in Kemba's hands and good things are going to happen," Borrego said.
Walker has formed solid chemistry with rookies Miles Bridges and Devonte Graham, and second-year wing Dwayne Bacon, who has been especially impressive to Borrego.
"Dwayne is such a presence out there on both sides," Borrego said. "'I'm seeing a ton of confidence from him."
Bacon has established career-high point totals in each of the past two games, scoring 20 in a 115-114 win against the Raptors on Sunday, and 24 against the Spurs.
Bridges, the No. 12 overall pick last June, has reached double figures in scoring the past four games for the first time this season. Graham, a second-round pick like Bacon, has 25 assists and just two turnovers the past six games.
"When you put (Bacon) and Miles out there, that's a pretty good defensive lineup," Borrego said. "(Bacon) has been fantastic on both ends of the ball, but I just love his spirit right now. Just the confidence, it's oozing right now, and when you see young guys get this, they want more. They're hungrier. They've tasted it now. They want to keep going, and that group right now wants to keep going."
Luck has also been on Charlotte's side lately. The Hornets beat the Raptors when Jeremy Lamb made a half-court buzzer-beater.
Charlotte needs to improve its record away from home, however. The Hornets are 11-24 in road games and play six of their final eight on the road.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 28, 2019