Gortat scores 21 points as Wizards upset Hornets, 113-98
WASHINGTON (AP) A prolonged hot streak earned the Charlotte Hornets a spot in the NBA playoffs. Now they're slipping a bit as the postseason looms.
Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 13 rebounds as the Washington Wizards defeated the Hornets 113-98 on Sunday, damaging Charlotte's chances to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Hornets are 29-14 since mid-January but have now lost three of five.
''We played two months of really, really good basketball and we have two games here to get back to that,'' coach Steve Clifford said after his team dropped its third straight road game.
The Hornets (46-34) entered the game tied with the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference, half a game behind the fourth-place Celtics. They play at Boston on Monday night.
Frank Kaminsky had 18 points and a career-high 11 rebounds and Kemba Walker added 16 points for the Hornets, who shot 34.6 percent (28 of 81) from the field and committed 15 turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Wizards shot 52.5 percent (42 of 80) from the field and outscored Charlotte 50-22 in the paint.
''We didn't really set a tone early on and they were able to get a lot of things in transition,'' Kaminsky said. ''In the half court, (they were) spreading us out, getting into the paint. We were missing rotations. Just didn't have it defensively today.''
Marcus Thornton added 16 points for the Wizards and Ramon Sessions had 15 points and 11 assists.
Washington (39-41), which was eliminated from playoff contention with Friday's loss to Detroit, won despite being without John Wall (sore left knee) for the third straight game and losing leading scorer Bradley Beal (sore pelvis), who left after playing 7:43 in the first quarter.
''I thought our aggression was there right from the start,'' Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. ''I thought our bigs were much more active than we were in Detroit in the first half.''
Walker scored nine of his points in the third quarter as Charlotte rallied from an 8-point halftime deficit. The Hornets were ahead 71-69 when Otto Porter Jr. scored the first eight points - six on 3-pointers - in a 12-0 third-quarter Wizards' run.
Al Jefferson's layup capped an 8-0 spurt to pull the Hornets to 88-84 midway through the fourth quarter. But Washington responded with a 14-2 run - including five points by Thornton and four by Gortat - to pull away.
Twice this season the Hornets had used second-half rallies to beat Washington.
''We had talked about that when got up by like 10,'' Sessions said. ''We said we know what happened the last time. ... We just kept our foot on the pedal and were able to get a good win.''
Washington finished 9 of 21 from 3-point range. Porter finished with 10 points.
The Wizards scored the first seven points of the second quarter and a 6-0 run later in the quarter gave them their biggest lead of the half, 53-39.
Hornets: Jeremy Lamb (strained toe) returned after missing Friday night's game. ... Entering Monday night's game, the Hornets are 11-4 in the second game of back-to-backs.
Wizards: Split the season series with Charlotte 2-2. ... Beal missed a total of four games last month with a sore pelvis. ... Washington improved to 21-19 at home.
Clifford noted the pros and cons of Sunday's noon start. ''It definitely takes guys out of their routines,'' he said. ''I think it's also good practice for the upcoming playoffs where you know that you are going to play at a different time every night. You have to be able to get yourself ready regardless of when we play.''
SOMETHING TO SHOOT FOR
Wittman said Washington's goal this week is to get to 41 wins. ''I told them when we got eliminated, let's see if we can get to .500,'' Wittman said. ''Guys are going to play that maybe haven't had the opportunities to play. We'll see if they can take advantage of those minutes. Let's take pride.''
Hornets: Charlotte visits Boston on Monday.
Wizards: Washington visits Brooklyn on Monday.