Wednesday night's 101-87 win over the Washington Wizards was the Charlotte Hornets seventh home victory in a row. My full recap of the game can be found here, but a few other things stood out as well.
The Hornets overcame another poor 3rd quarter
Monday, the Hornets found themselves trailing by 22 after a tightly contested game in the first half. Wednesday's game followed a similar path, only this time the Hornets managed to keep the game within reach. Still, the poor 3rd quarter was concerning, once again. I understand that teams go through lapses of play each game, but giving up a 13-0 run in close game can often make the difference. And for a few moments, it seemed that might be the case. The Hornets looked dysfunctional on both ends of the floor -- they lacked spacing on offense and turned it over far too much, which led to easy baskets for the Wizards.
Fortunately, the defense tightened up, and after Nicolas Batum scored two straight 3-pointers, the Hornets didn't look back. More encouraging was that the run started and sustained itself because of the defense, which has looked increasingly better in recent games (Monday's excluded), compared to earlier in the season. The Hornets appear to be figuring out the team side of things on defense, and it showed with the 25-2 run to end the game.
Zeller attacked the rim aggressively
Cody Zeller still hasn't hit a jumpshot this season. This would be a bigger concern, except that Zeller is finding much more success at the rim, as shown tonight. He finished with 11 points on 5-7 shooting (his only misses were 3-point attempts) and really took it to Washington's frontcourt.
Pre-season, much of the emphasis for Zeller's improvement was on his ability to knock down outside shots. Now it seems his strength as an offensive player may lie at the rim instead, and in a new role as the backup center. While he still plays at the four spot when Al Jefferson is on the floor, Clifford has moved him to center when paired with Frank Kaminsky, which gives Zeller the opportunity to be the one inside player in the 4-out, 1-in offense. He doesn't have the post moves of Jefferson, nor does he command double teams, but he puts himself in good positions, and can beat a lot of big men off the dribble. It worked well Wednesday night, and it will be interesting to see if he continues in this role moving forward.