Court Vision: Hornets edge shorthanded Hawks for key win in playoff race

CHARLOTTE — Going inside the Hornets’ 115-100 win Saturday at home as Atlanta rested its starters.

With 10 games remaining on the Hornets schedule, they now sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference after the win over Atlanta, one game out of eighth place and two games out of seventh. With that said, that’s why Monday’s home game against Boston, which holds the eighth spot, may be the game of the year.

If Charlotte (31-41) can manage to win, it will give the Hornets a 3-1 season advantage and the tiebreaker, should it come to that.

A loss would put Charlotte at least two games behind the Celtics (32-40) and maybe end its playoff hopes.

"It’ll be huge," Hornets forward Marvin Williams said. "Monday could be the game of the season."

Boston has a home game against the Clippers on Sunday night. Charlotte will either be a half game or a game and a half behind the Celtics when they meet Monday, meaning the Hornets could jump Boston in the standings or fall well back.

To say a win is critical is an understatement.

"We want to make the playoffs," Hornets guard Gerald Henderson said. "That’s what it comes down to. We’ve got to focus in on what’s ahead of us."

Jeffrey Taylor has had a tough season to say the least. After starting the season on the suspended list, he has played sparingly since joining the team in mid-December.

In fact, he’d seen the court just 18 times all season entering Saturday night and averaged just 8.6 minutes per game.

But thanks to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going down with a sprained ankle Friday night, Taylor was inserted into the starting lineup for the Hornets. It was his third start of the season.

"I felt good about the game," Taylor said. "It’s tough (not playing regularly), but I always try to be a really good teammate. I try to stay ready. … We’re all professional players. You have to be ready."

He played well, finishing with nine points on 3-of-6 shooting in 27 minutes of action.

"You’re trying to find the best compliment to the other guys," said Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. "I just feel that he gives us a defensive component. He started some last year. I think P.J. Hairston did a good job last night and I want to keep him in that role (of coming off the bench)."

A night after clinching the top spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer decided to emulate his former boss and rest his usual starters. His former employer Greg Popovich of San Antonio started the trend a few years ago and has made the practice of doing so popular.

"We don’t have anything without our fans, so I empathize that there may be a conflict of interest, but we are trying to make a decision that will put our team and our players in the best position to have success," Budenholzer said. "Somewhere in the short term, but much more in the long term and through the playoffs being healthy is crucial. …

Next Up: Hornets vs. Celtics

"We appreciate the value of the fans and hopefully they will give us some rope so we can found out and make decisions that are best for our players and our team."

Clifford said he fully understands why the Hawks sat their regulars.

"I think that when you’re in a situation like them, you get ready for the playoffs," he said. "You worry about your own team. Nobody knows their team like they do. … They know what’s the best way for their team to get ready for the playoffs, and that is what they are doing."

52.5 — The field goal percentage of the Hornets, which is the sixth time this season they’ve shot at least 50 percent from the field.

32 — Number of assists Atlanta had on 37 baskets.

"I think anywhere from 7-10 days is what we’re hoping for, but that may be hopeful, though." — Clifford on how long Kidd-Gilchrist may be out with a left ankle sprain sustained Friday night at Washington.

Follow Brett Jensen on Twitter @Brett_Jensen