Court Vision: Hornets down Wizards to remain hot

BY foxsports • February 5, 2015

Charlotte beats Washington for the second time in a week, this time in a 94-87 win Thursday night.

1. HORNETS CONTINUE MAJOR HOT STREAK

After a difficult first two months, the Charlotte Hornets have been one of the best teams in the NBA since Jan. 1. And at some point they're no longer going to be referred to as hot but simply as good.

After beating Washington (31-20) for the second time in less than a week, Charlotte is 12-4 since the start of the new year, which ranks as the second-best in the Eastern Conference behind only Atlanta. 

"We have all the talent in this locker room to be an elite team in the East," said All-Pro center Al Jefferson. "We're coming into our own. We're good. We're playing the way we meant to play."

The sudden surge by the Hornets (22-27) can be attributed to their solid defensive play. 

During the month of January, Charlotte led the NBA in opponent scoring (89.5 points per game) and field goal percentage defense (39.6). When a team is putting up numbers like that, they're going to be hard pressed to lose, even when the offense goes south for a game. 

"I think that everyone has bought into the defense," Hornets forward Cody Zeller said. "Early on in the season we weren't connected."

That's certainly not the case any longer.

2. HORNETS GET MAX OUT OF MAXIELL

Charlotte forward Jason Maxiell is generally one of the last players to get off the bench and into the game and generally only plays when one of the big men gets into foul trouble or somebody is injured.

With center Bismack Biyombo out a couple of weeks with a bruised knee cap, Maxiell, who's in his ninth year in the league, used the most of his opportunity against the Wizards on Thursday night, setting a career-high with seven blocks.

For good measure, he also added 11 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

"He's tough, smart and experienced," Charlotte head coach Steve Clifford said. "It makes a huge difference. Older, experienced, veteran guys are good to have." 

Maxiell entered the game averaging about 14 minutes of action and just 3.4 points per game. However, he said that's actually more action than he anticipated seeing this season after signing as a free agent during the summer. 

"It's about a hundred times more minutes than I thought (I'd get)," he said. "(I see myself as) a mentor, player and sometimes coach."

3. HORNETS CONTINUE TO WIN WITHOUT STARTERS

Charlotte guard Kemba Walker has missed seven games this season and will miss at least five more weeks of games because of his knee surgery last week. But during his absence, the Hornets are 6-1.

Clifford said he's well aware of the stats with and without players.

"I look at all the numbers, sure," he said. "As a coach, I use numbers with the players every day, but numbers never tell you the story. ...

"Certainly, you look at the numbers, but again, without watching the film, there is no way you can make a semi-intelligent suggestion about things like that."

For the record, Charlotte went 6-3 without Jefferson and 9-6 without guard Lance Stephenson. 

However, the Hornets are just 3-11 without Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. 

"In my opinion, (Kidd-Gilchrist) does impact winning because of the way he plays and because of his intangibles," Clifford said. "I think that we obviously have played better with him on the floor. The big step for him is that he is getting to the point where he can finish games consistently. When he can do that, it puts his career in another step forward."

2 -- The number of points Wizards All-Star guard John Wall had after halftime. 

15 -- The season-high number of shots Charlotte blocked.

"I was just trying to be aggressive. That is what I try to do every game," said Hornets guard Gerald Henderson, who had a game-high 27 points on 10-of-15 shooting.

Follow Brett Jensen on Twitter @Brett_Jensen


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