Hornets lean on late run, stun Wizards

Steve Reed (Associated Press) - November 25, 2015 - 11:25pm
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Struggling to find their way on offense, the Charlotte Hornets figured the only way to keep their home winning streak alive was to tighten up on defense.
The Hornets did just that, allowing a franchise-low six points in the fourth quarter while closing with a 25-2 run to beat the Washington Wizards 101-87 on Wednesday night (Thursday in Manila).
''That's impressive because that team can score,'' Hornets guard Nicolas Batum said. ''When we play defense, we can beat any team in this league.''
Jeremy Lamb had 18 points and seven rebounds, Batum added 16 points and 11 assists and the Hornets won their seventh straight home game. Charlotte has won five of six overall to improve to 9-6.
Kemba Walker, coming off a 39-point game in Charlotte's overtime win over Sacramento, added 16 points, and Marvin Williams and Al Jefferson each had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The Wizards led 85-76 with less than 5 minutes to play, but were 0 for 17 from the field with three turnovers in their final 19 possessions. The Hornets scored 25 straight points to take control before Gary Neal added two meaningless free throws in the final seconds to end the run.
''I'd like us to play through a bad (start) to a quarter,'' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. ''If you keep fighting all of a sudden good things happen to you, but if you give into it, it's a snowball effect.''
Marcin Gortat led Washington with 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Bradley Beal also had 17 points. The Wizards dropped games on back-to-back nights after winning three straight.
The Wizards outscored the Hornets 27-16 in the third quarter, finishing with a 13-0 run to take an 81-74 lead. Washington held Charlotte to 0-for-5 shooting while forcing five turnovers during that span.
''It felt like we couldn't nothing going,'' Lamb said. ''We kept missing shot but we just stayed together and stayed with it and started hitting some shots. Next thing you know, it's a 25-0 run.''
Batum made two 3-pointers to help give the Hornets the lead at 88-85 with 5 minutes to play. Lamb added an 18-foot jumper from the left wing to make it a five-point game with 4:19 left. While the Wizards struggled to make a shot, Jefferson scored off a feed from Lamb, and Walker scored on backdoor layup to push Charlotte's lead to 94-85.
''Our defense in the fourth was probably the best we've played all year,'' Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.
Charlotte outscored Washington 46-22 in the paint.
Wizards: Gortat's double-double was his third of the season. ... Gary Neal had 14 points, giving him consecutive double-digit scoring performances for the first time this season.
Hornets: Walker reached the 1,600 assist plateau, joining Muggsy Bogues, Raymond Felton, David Wesley and Baron Davis as the only Charlotte players to accomplish that feat. Team owner Michael Jordan sat at the end of Charlotte's bench.
Clifford agreed in principle to a three-year contract extension before the game. The team did not release financial terms for Clifford, who is in his third year with the club.
Clifford has a career record of 84-94 since taking over in 2013. The team went 43-39 in his first season and made the playoffs but was swept in the first round by Miami. Charlotte fell to 33-49 amid a series of injuries last year.
Clifford praised veteran Marvin Williams for his defensive play calling him ''Kidd-Gilchrist-like,'' a tip of the hat to injured forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the team's top defender.
''He was all over the place,'' Clifford said. ''He was phenomenal.''
After losing their home opener, the Hornets have won seven straight and the Charlotte crowd seems to be getting more amped with each passing win.
''The fans are great for us,'' Batum said. ''They've done a great job to support us and keep us in the game, so we can't do anything without them. We're going to try and protect this house for a long time.''
Wizards play in Boston next while the Hornest host Cleveland.  Both games Friday night (Saturday in Manila).
Hornets: Host Cleveland on Friday night.

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