76ers-Hornets Preview

While he's been playing at an elite level, Nicolas Batum says the Charlotte Hornets are focused on the big picture as they try to inch closer to clinching a rare postseason berth.

The Philadelphia 76ers merely hope to avoid matching the worst finish in NBA history.

Coming off the best month in franchise history, the Hornets look to open April with their 20th win in 25 games Friday night in the last of a home-and-home set with the visiting 76ers.

Charlotte set a club record for victories in a month by closing out a 13-3 March with Tuesday's 100-85 win at Philadelphia. Among four teams in a tight battle between third and sixth place in the Eastern Conference, the Hornets have an opportunity to cut their magic number to one as they continue to chase only their third postseason appearance in 12 seasons.

Batum led the way Tuesday with 19 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds, and Cody Zeller added 18 points and 11 boards.

Securing home-court advantage could go a long way toward Charlotte's bid to advance past the first round for the first time since the 2001-02 season. The Hornets (43-31) have won 10 of 12 in Charlotte and own the East's third-best home record at 27-11.

''Right now we're just preparing ourselves to be ready for (the playoffs),'' Batum said. "We don't play just to get into the playoffs. We're trying to get ready to be effective in the playoffs and don't just do one-and-done.''

After he became the first Charlotte player with multiple triple-doubles in a season since 2000-01, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown called Batum "one of the elite wings in the NBA."

Batum, acquired from Portland in the offseason, has certainly come on strong since averaging 8.8 points during an injury-plagued January. He scored 12.7 per game in February before averaging 18.5 in March - his best month of the season - along with 6.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds.

"I'm just feeling more and more comfortable with this team," Batum told the team's official website. "I trust my team. I love the coaching staff and love my teammates. I just love being here."

The Hornets finished with the East's second-best scoring average in March with 109.2 points, but they impressed defensively Tuesday while holding Philadelphia to a 31.3 percent from the field. They also outscored the 76ers 48-24 in the paint and outrebounded them 55-45.

Robert Covington had 18 points for Philadelphia, which dressed 10 players in its 10th consecutive defeat and 23rd in 24 games. Now the club is expected to again miss Nerlens Noel (knee), Jerami Grant (knee, quad), Richaun Holmes (Achilles) and Jahlil Okafor (knee).

The 76ers (9-66) must win once more to avoid matching the worst 82-game record in league history. Should they drop their final seven, they will finish at 9-73 to tie the mark they set in 1972-73.

''There's no quit,'' veteran Elton Brand said. ''You can't represent Philadelphia and quit. It's tough but we have to keep fighting for wins. We have to fight for the city.''

Charlotte's Kemba Walker had averaged 26 points on 53.2 percent shooting in his previous four meetings with Philadelphia before finishing with 16 on 5-of-19 shooting Tuesday.

Jeremy Lin sat out with a sore back and will likely be a game-time decision.

The Hornets have won four straight and nine of 11 over the 76ers, including five in a row at home.

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