Wizards host Hornets in division clash
WASHINGTON -- On the fringes of the NBA's Eastern Conference playoff picture, every game is a big deal. So, when the Washington Wizards host the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, it will be more than just a matchup of sub-.500 squads.
Charlotte enters the game in seventh place in the conference after holding off surging Brooklyn on Friday in a 100-87 victory. Kemba Walker scored 29 points and veteran Tony Parker chipped in 19 to help the Hornets get off to a fast start and pull away at home.
"I think our guys are continuing to get better," Charlotte coach James Borrego told the team's website after the victory.
The Hornets may be improving at home, but it's another story on the road, where they have struggled all season to the tune of a 4-10 mark. In order to keep their tenuous hold on a postseason slot, they'll have to perform better outside of Charlotte.
"It's about winning games," guard Jeremy Lamb told reporters. "We want to be one of those top eight teams at the end of the year. ... You have to grind, you have to be ready to play, whether you're on the road or at home, no matter who you're playing."
The Wizards lost their third straight, 101-92 to Chicago on Friday, and may be without guard John Wall for an extended period of time due to a lingering heel injury. Coach Scott Brooks said Wall will see a specialist for the issue. Wall isn't the only injury issue for the Wizards. Forwards Otto Porter (quad) and Markieff Morris (neck) likely out for Saturday's contest, leaving Washington short-handed.
"You have to deal with it and try to figure things out on the fly," Brooks told reporters post-game. "Our guys will do it. We'll do it together. We have to play better offensively, with a quick game (tonight). We have to. If we compete like the way we competed tonight, I'm comfortable going into every game."
Bradley Beal scored 34 points for the depleted Wizards on 13-of-27 shooting against the Bulls and Thomas Bryant had 12 points and eight rebounds.
Washington is struggling to find answers as it now sits in 11th place in the conference, with no time to dwell on a disappointing stretch.
"The NBA is just a marathon," guard Tomas Satoransky told reporters. "You have a bad game and the next day is another one. So, it's quick and you don't really get time to think about it."
This will be the first time the Southeast Division rivals have met this season. Charlotte captured three of the four meetings between the teams last season.
"You're not going to have a season where everything goes the way you want," Brooks said. "Never. You never will as a player and you never will as a coach. Sometimes in the most difficult situations, you find things you didn't think you had."
Updated December 28, 2018