The Charlotte Hornets have generated some momentum at a good time of the season.
They have won their past two games entering a meaningful regular-season finale against the visiting Washington Wizards on Sunday afternoon.
“They followed the script,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said of the strong late-season performances. “The execution and the focus (has been ideal).”
The Hornets (42-39) have secured their first winning season since 2015-16. A victory Sunday would give Charlotte 11 wins over its final 15 games.
“We still have one to go and even more after that,” Borrego said. “I want us to stay hungry and stay aggressive.”
The Hornets will be in the Eastern Conference play-in portion of the postseason. They’re in line for the No. 10 seed, so they must beat Washington and get some help in order to move up in that pecking order.
Charlotte is a game behind Brooklyn and Cleveland and tied with Atlanta among the four teams that will be in the play-in.
“They should be excited,” Borrego said of his players. “We put ourselves in a great position. From where we’ve come to this opportunity at home to go push for 43 wins this season. I hope we embrace that game Sunday which I believe we will. That’s what we can control. The standings, the rest of the stuff will take care of itself.”
The Wizards (35-46) have dropped three of four after losing 114-92 in their home finale to the New York Knicks on Friday night.
The Hornets drubbed the Eastern Conference’s No. 6 seed Chicago Bulls with a 133-117 decision Friday night. Charlotte made its first 11 shots from the field.
But it’s all the little things that seem to be so vital for the Hornets.
“Taking care of the ball, defending at a high level,” forward Cody Martin said. “That’s what it’s going to take for us to keep advancing, so that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.
The Wizards held out Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kristaps Porzingis from Friday night’s game as precautions and they’ll also miss Sunday’s game. Caldwell-Pope was listed as receiving rest and Porzingis has a sore knee.
These developments are in addition to the absence of Kyle Kuzma because of knee tendinitis. So needless to say, there have been some makeshift units on the floor for the Wizards.
“I’m not going to blame guys for not feeling comfortable playing different positions,” Washington coach Wes Unseld Jr. said.
Thirteen players were used Friday night by Unseld. That included a couple of players who were previously with the Hornets.
Guard Ish Smith, who began the season with the Hornets until a mid-February trade that sent Montrezl Harrell to Charlotte, was used off the bench. Vernon Carey Jr., who also was involved in that deal going to Washington, has joined the active roster for the Wizards.
Unseld said more urgency is necessary, particularly on the defensive end.
Meanwhile, Charlotte played for the third game in a row without forward Gordon Hayward because of a sore foot. His status remains unclear after missing most of the past few months with injuries.
–Field Level Media