Just a couple days after beating the Wizards in the nation’s capital, the Wiz came to Charlotte and got a similar result. The loss tonight makes it five straight losses for the Wizards and three straight wins for the Hornets.
If I had told you before the game that starting big men Al Jefferson and Cody Zeller would combine for eight points on 3-15 shooting, would you have predicted a Charlotte victory? Thanks to outstanding offensive play from Gerald Henderson and great work on both ends from Jason Maxiell, the Hornets were able to withstand subpar performances from the rest of their starters.
Henderson came out blazing, hit all six of his first shots, including a monster slam.
He never cooled down and was always there to give the Hornets a bucket when they needed him. Henderson struggled at the beginning of the year to find his role with the ball in the hands of Kemba Walker, Lance Stephenson, and Al Jefferson so much. Since Walker has gone down, however, Henderson has really stepped up and been aggressive on both ends of the floor. He ended the night with 27 points on 10-15 shooting and went 7-8 from the line.
Jason Maxiell was the hero of the night, recording 11 points on 3-4 shooting, knocked down 5-6 free throws, grabbed eight boards, and swatted away SEVEN shots. That’s correct – Maxiell channeled his inner Bismack Biyombo and blocked seven Wizard shots.
The Wizards’ identity the last season and a half have been one of toughness – Nene and Marcin Gortat can battle any big man duo in the NBA, John Wall is a ferocious defender and as tough as it gets at his position, and Paul Pierce brings that identity as well. The Hornets needed someone to match their intensity inside and the 31-year-old veteran did just that.
This Hornets squad certainly isn’t winning with offensive style points like the Hawks or Warriors, but they’re fun to watch in their own way. Take this example where Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller battle for a key possession late in the game.
The Hornets aren’t worried about style. They’re just putting their heads down and playing tough, defensive basketball. And it’s working – since the start of the new year, the Hornets have easily the best defense in the NBA, only allowing 92.6 points per 100 possessions. They struggled at the beginning of the year in that regard, but since MKG has been healthy, they have been good. Like best-defense-in-the-NBA good. And MKG is a legitimate All-Defense NBA candidate.
And it’s translated to wins.
Since the beginning of 2015, the Hornets have a win% of 75.0%, 4th best in the NBA. Only behind Hawks/Dubs/Grizz. #YearOfTheHornet— Bryan Mears (@bryan_mears) February 6, 2015
HORNETS IN THE SEVENTH SEED— At The Hive (@At_The_Hive) February 6, 2015
Up next, a journey up to Philly to face the 76ers on Saturday.