Hornets-Wizards Preview

Last season in the Southeast Division, it was Washington pushing for home advantage in the first round of the playoffs at this time. This season, it's Charlotte doing so with the Wizards already set on watching the postseason from home.

The Hornets head to Washington on Sunday for their third-to-last game with no worse than the No. 6 seed secured while seeking something better.

Charlotte (46-33) kept on the trails of Atlanta and Miami with Friday's 113-99 home win over Brooklyn for its second straight victory after dropping two to the top two teams in the Eastern Conference.

"No matter what, this group of guys has done a great job," said coach Steve Clifford, whose team finished fourth in the division last season with a 33-49 record and missed the playoffs by five games. "We are becoming more relevant in the NBA. We've made the playoffs two out of the last three years - and that is what good teams do."

And a good team is more and more what the league must come to accept them as. It didn't look that way on Jan. 10 when they lost their seventh straight game, but they ended that with a 107-84 home win over Atlanta three days later and are 29-13 since.

Charlotte's .690 winning percentage in that time trails only Golden State, San Antonio and Toronto, and its 46 wins are tied with 2000-01 for the city's most since winning 49 in 1999-00.

Kemba Walker had 22 points against the Nets, which came two nights after scoring 34 in a road win over New York, and the guard has shot 51.4 percent and hit 11 of 21 from 3-point range in that time.

"I just wanted to be aggressive and take the best shots available," Walker said. "I got a few on the fast breaks and my teammates did a great job as well. We came out and got a great lead and never looked back."

The Hornets have won two of three in the season series, though Walker has been limited to 17.4 points on 33.8 percent shooting in his last eight games against the Wizards and 14.1 on 28.8 percent in eight career games in Washington.

The Wizards (38-41) fell short in their bid to open last season's playoffs at home yet managed to advance to the second round with a sweep of Toronto. That's why this season can only be looked at as a major regression.

After a five-game winning streak March 14-21 gave them some hope, they've gone 3-6 and failed to string together wins. Friday's 112-99 loss in Detroit officially eliminated Washington from the postseason after consecutive appearances.

"It's tough to miss out with the talent we have on this team," Markieff Morris said. "We didn't have our best player (John Wall), and their best player stepped up for them."

Granted, injuries have been a part of it with players such as Bradley Beal missing large chunks, while Wall missed his second straight game with a knee injury.

Morris had 29 points and has averaged 17.5 in the last six games, though it's difficult to call his embattled season anything but a backward step.

The forward, who was acquired from Phoenix on Feb. 18, is averaging 12.0 points per game after a career-best 15.3 a season ago, while his 42.4 field-goal percentage is down from 47.5 over the previous two seasons.

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