Hornets begin week with matchup against Wizards (Jan 23, 2017)

BY AP • January 22, 2017

If there were any doubts about Charlotte being a viable threat in the Eastern Conference, those questions were erased after the Hornets' past two games.

On Friday, guard Kemba Walker led the Hornets to a 113-78 rout of the Toronto Raptors, one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams.

Walker had 32 points, four rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes while matched up against Toronto's All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan and his running mate, Kyle Lowry, who has a good chance of being named to the All-Star squad this week.

On Saturday, seven players scored in double figures in 112-105 victory over Brooklyn in what was arguably one of Charlotte's best overall performances despite playing the team with the worst record in the league.

The win over the Nets was the Hornets' third straight and ninth in its last 10 appearances at Spectrum Center.

Charlotte will get an even better indication of where it stands in the NBA power strata this week when the Washington Wizards invade the Spectrum Center on Monday followed by the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Sure, the Warriors will provide a sound measuring stick, but the Wizards?

The Wizards are one of the NBA's hottest teams despite losing 113-112 Saturday on a last-second shot to the Detroit Pistons, only their second defeat in the last nine outings.

And with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Washington backcourt doesn't take a backseat to anyone in the East.

In the loss to the Pistons, Wall finished with 19 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds. He's averaging 23 points, 4.5 rebounds and 10.2 assists per game. Beal is at 21.7 points per game but is mired in a slump.

After Beal missed all seven shots from beyond the arc Saturday, his futility streak has stretched to 0 of 19 in three games. Beal was asked about his slump.

"What's a 'miss?'" Beal told The Washington Post in mock confusion. "A 'miss' is a lady."

"I don't know what a miss is."

Like any good shooter, Beal has little conscience and knows he will regain his stroke as long as he keeps shooting. He still is averaging career highs in scoring, overall shooting (.456) and 3-point percentages (.394).

"I've been around Brad," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said. "He's diligent in his work. He gets his shots in. He doesn't change his routine. I think that's the best way to get out of some missed shots. He's getting good looks. He just has to keep believing in it because I do and his teammates do."

There's no shortage of belief in the Hornets' locker room, especially when it comes to the diminutive Walker.

"It's not a question of 'Is he playing like an All-Star?' He's an All-Star-caliber guard, there's no question about it. He's playing great," Hornets coach Steve Clifford told reporters.

For his part, Walker is more focused on the Hornets' 21-21 record and says he doesn't deserve an All-Star nod, despite career bests in shooting percentage, 3-point shooting percentage and points per game.

"I really don't care honestly. It's starting to get old hearing about it," Walker said. "If my name is called, of course, I would be super excited. But if not I'm just going to move forward."

And moving forward for Walker means moving the Hornets up in the standings during his breakout season. Through his first four years in the league, Walker was a 39 percent shooter from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range.

This season, he's at 46.3 from the field and 41.1 from beyond the arc.

"I'm six years in now. It is a lot different when I'm out there," Walker said. "It's everything, my pace, my pick-and-roll game, of course my shot, I'm just able to score in many different ways now."



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