Rockets-Hornets Preview

As much as the Charlotte Hornets love seeing Kemba Walker register one big scoring effort after another, it has to be a little comforting to know they can win without one.

That doesn't mean it's going to happen regularly, so the Hornets would appreciate a bounce-back performance from Walker on Saturday night as they try to win seven straight for the first time in 14 years with a rare victory over the visiting Houston Rockets.

Baron Davis was running the point the last time Charlotte (36-28) won seven games in a row, and that was the season before the franchise moved to New Orleans.

The Hornets' current floor general has them in position to get there again after four straight 30-point games entering Friday, but what was most impressive about the latest contest is that Walker's streak ending didn't prevent the team's from continuing.

Walker was held to 16 points on 3-of-11 shooting, but six other Hornets scored in double figures in a 118-103 rout of Detroit. Marvin Williams led the way with 22 - his fifth 20-point game in his last 20 after having none in his previous 149.

"We had stretches tonight that were the best we've played all year in terms of putting offense and defense together," coach Steve Clifford said. "Obviously this was a good win, a good effort and we did a lot of things better. Hopefully we take this and play well again tomorrow night."

Charlotte moved eight games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 2000-01 season. Now it takes a crack at ending a 10-game skid against the Rockets (33-32), whom it last beat when Walker was a junior at Connecticut.

"It's gonna be a tough one," Walker said of facing Houston, which held him to 14 points on 3-of-10 shooting in a 102-95 loss Dec. 21. "Those guys can score, of course they've got one of the better players in the league in James Harden, so we have to be ready to come in and defend him."

The Hornets winning on an off night from Walker has been a rarity. Charlotte has won 17 of its last 23 he's played, going 15-0 when he scores at least 22 and 2-6 otherwise.

Clifford's team is just 1 1/2 games behind Southeast Division-leading Miami, while the Rockets are within a half game of Portland for sixth in the Western Conference, which would allow it to avoid Golden State or San Antonio in the first round.

Houston will go for a fourth straight win as it tries to lay waste to another impressive streak. The Rockets began this week by ending Toronto's franchise-record 12-game run at home Sunday, and after an easy victory over Philadelphia they snapped Boston's run at TD Garden at 14 with Friday's 102-98 win.

Houston will now try to end its five-game trip with a fourth straight victory.

"We have the willingness to share, we have the willingness to (play) defense (since the All-Star break)," interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "There has been a camaraderie and togetherness."

"We'll be even better in the weeks to come but we are taking steps in the right direction now."

Harden had 32 points, which actually slightly reduced his NBA-leading average since Jan. 29 to 33.2, but the encouraging sign to come out of Friday's game was the performance of a player who was a top-3 pick a year before Harden.

Michael Beasley, who just finished a second season in China, got in for a third game since signing with Houston a week ago. He managed to take 19 shots in 15 minutes, hitting nine to finish with 18 points.

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