Hornets look to get back on track vs. Nets
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Teetering on the edge of playoff elimination following a rugged stretch of four games, the Charlotte Hornets begin a favorable turn in their schedule when they host the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.
The Hornets lost for the fourth straight time Tuesday, 128-114 to the Philadelphia 76ers. They are six games behind the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks, who are tied for seventh in the Eastern Conference and occupy the final two playoff spots.
Those four losses -- while costly -- were hardly unpredictable for Charlotte, which went up against the 76ers twice and Boston and Toronto once apiece over a seven-day span.
Making up six games with 17 to play won't be easy for the Hornets, but the schedule should help. Ten of their next 15 games are against Brooklyn (twice), Phoenix, Atlanta, New York (twice), Memphis, Dallas, Chicago and Orlando, beginning with the Nets and Suns in two basically must-win games in the next three days.
The Hornets tip off the key stretch with their leading scorer, Kemba Walker, coming off arguably his worst game of the season. He shot 1-for-9 and totaled only five points in Tuesday's loss to the 76ers.
A sign of fatigue for the little guy ranked 17th in the NBA in minutes per game (34.8)?
"No. I'm good," he insisted after the game. "I just had a bad shooting night. It happens."
Walker went for a game-high 31 points when the Hornets thumped the Nets 111-96 at home on Feb. 22. It was the only time the clubs have met previously this season.
The difference in the game: 3-point shooting. The Nets shot a lot; the Hornets shot better.
Walker hit half his eight 3-point attempts, helping Charlotte go 11-for-21 from beyond the arc. The Nets, by contrast, went 14-for-43.
The high-volume, low-percentage approach to 3-pointers has been consistent with the Nets' season. They rank second in the NBA in 3-point attempts (35.2 per game), but 28th in percentage made (34.7).
They became the fourth team in NBA history to make at least 12 in 10 straight games before going 9-for-34 in Tuesday's 114-101 loss at Golden State.
It was the Nets' 10th straight road defeat, including fourth in a row on a 10-day, five-game trip that ends in Charlotte.
Nets coach Kenny Atkinson praised his club after the Golden State loss, a game in which road-weary Brooklyn fell 21 points behind in the first quarter before rallying to take a halftime lead.
"I liked the way we competed. We did a lot of good things out there," he noted. "We got down and we came back, and we got down and we fought back, kind of like we've done all year."
DeAngelo Russell paced the Nets with 20 points, making three of his six 3-point attempts.
He had 19 points, but was 2-for-8 on 3-pointers, in the matchup with Walker in the earlier meeting with the Hornets.
The Nets return to Brooklyn after Thursday's game to play five of six at home. They have been unable to use the Barclays Center this week because it has been the site of the ACC Tournament.
Updated March 7, 2018