The Charlotte Hornets are far enough out of the race with 13 games left that making a run up to the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference would be a big surprise, but that doesn’t mean they’ve given up hope. The Hornets will try to knock off a top-5 team from the East for a second consecutive game when they host the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.
Charlotte’s three-game slide last week pushed it to 10 games under .500 while teams like Miami and Milwaukee were making moves forward, but the Hornets showed they weren’t willing to pack it in on the season by stepping up and beating third-place Washington 98-93 on Saturday. “I think everyone knows how bad we needed this one, man,” forward Marvin Williams told reporters. “We’re in a tight, tight spot right now. We don’t have very much room for error. We’re chasing some really good teams for the last couple playoff spots. We still believe we can do it so we’re just going to take it one game at a time. This was a huge win for us.” The Hawks, who occupy the No. 5 spot in the East, dropped their last three games and are running out of time to jump ahead of the fourth-place Toronto Raptors and earn homecourt advantage in the first round. Atlanta failed to score 100 points in any of the last three games and shot 36.4 percent from the floor in Saturday’s 113-97 home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Atlanta, Charlotte)
ABOUT THE HAWKS (37-32): Atlanta All-Star power forward Paul Millsap did not look like himself while averaging 13 points on 9-of-22 shooting in losses to San Antonio and Memphis earlier in the week and was given Saturday off to rest soreness in his right knee. The Hawks got a strong performance from power forward Ersan Ilyasova (23 points on 7-of-11 shooting) in Millsap’s absence but could have used more from point guard Dennis Schroder, who went 2-of-14 from the floor. The 23-year-old Germany native is a combined 6-of-30 from the field in the last two contests and is 5-of-24 from 3-point range over the last six contests.
ABOUT THE HORNETS (30-39): Charlotte needs to go on a winning streak and get a lot of help in order to jump back into the race for the No. 8 spot in the East but gave itself hope on Saturday. The Hornets held the high-powered Wizards to 36.7 percent shooting and overcame some of their own struggles on the offensive end, including All-Star Kemba Walker’s continued slump. Walker managed 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting in the win and is shooting 33.8 percent from the floor over the last four games, including 11-of-39 from 3-point range.
1. Hornets C Cody Zeller scored 19 points on Saturday after averaging 7.6 in the previous five games.
2. Atlanta C Dwight Howard recorded a season-high five steals on Saturday.
3. Charlotte took each of the first two meetings this season.
PREDICTION: Hawks 103, Hornets 96