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Charlotte Hornets hold on late, defeat Washington Wizards 98-93

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The Hornets crept closer to the playoffs with a huge win against the Wizards Saturday night.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Wow.

The Charlotte Hornets held the Washington Wizards to 36.7 percent shooting Saturday night and pulled out a victory late, winning 98-93. The win bumps the Hornets up to just four games back of the eighth seed.

With 13 games left in the regular season, the playoffs are still the goal.

Cody Zeller led the Hornets with 19 points, five rebounds, four steals, and two blocks and gave Marcin Gortat fits all night. Cody’s hustle and athleticism paid off huge in this game. If it weren’t for he and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, it’s unlikely the Hornets would’ve won tonight.

Kidd-Gilchrist finished with eight points, four rebounds, four blocks, and two steals, but as is always the case with MKG, it was his energy and defense that was most valuable to the Hornets. MKG single-handedly spurred a Hornets run in the third quarter that begun to shift momentum in the Hornets’ favor.

He also did this.

The Wizards’ backcourt duo of John Wall and Bradley Beal struggled against the Hornets, combining for 37 points on 30 shots and posting the two worst plus-minus ratings on their team. Some of that was Kemba Walker, but Hornets head coach Steve Clifford elected to play MKG on Beal and for the most part got excellent results.

Briante Weber also put in good minutes against Wall and Brandon Jennings. Dude is quick and plays hard. With a bit of added strength, he could be quite good.

It’s a bit of a surprise the Hornets came away with this win, honestly. Kemba didn’t have a particularly good game. Nor did Nicolas Batum. The Hornets’ three main scorers off the bench — Frank Kaminsky, Marco Belinelli, and Jeremy Lamb — also didn’t play all that well.

But the fact that they were able to grind this game out is a testament to how good this team can be when its defense is clicking. Offense is more important than ever in the NBA, but defense still wins games. Holding a legit playoff team to 93 points is amazing.

(In fairness, it did take 20 fouls to make that happen. That’s a few too many. But holding the Wizards to 33.3 percent shooting on 3-pointers and 28 points in the paint? Worth it.)

It looks like the Hornets are still trying to make the playoffs despite calls for them to tank from fans. They need to string together a few nice winning streaks to make that happen, however, and we haven’t seen them do that often this season.

In fact, the Hornets’ longest winning streak this season is four games, and they’ve won two or more games in a row just nine times. In contrast, their longest losing streak is seven games.

Still, they can do this. They can absolutely do this. This season is an outlier compared to what we’ve seen from this group in the past. It’s just getting back to that level of confidence and intensity. This win against the Wizards was a nice step in that direction.

The Hornets next play on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.