The Charlotte Hornets finally strung together four victories this season. Perhaps more consequentially, they clinched a tiebreaker over the Detroit Pistons with a 114-98 victory Sunday afternoon at Spectrum Center.
The Hornets led by as much as 30 in the first half. The Pistons (28-31) trimmed that deficit to 18 in the third quarter, but then the home team poured it on again, winning four in a row. This completed the three-game Hornets-Pistons series this season, with the Hornets winning two of three. So in the event these teams finished tied, the Hornets would get the nod, either for a playoff spot or the better seeding.
Both teams cleared their benches with about six minutes left at Spectrum Center. Pistons forward Blake Griffin, acquired in a midseason trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, finished with 20 points. Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard each scored 17 points for the Hornets, and Howard also had 12 rebounds.
The Hornets (27-33) play the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night at home. The Hornets only have nine home games remaining this regular season.
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Three who mattered
Howard: He had a challenging matchup against Pistons All-Star Andre Drummond, and took care of business.
Marvin Williams: He had the toughest defensive matchup in this game, guarding multitime All-Star Griffin, and kept Griffin mostly in check.
Ish Smith: Smith, who grew up in Concord and played at Wake Forest, has done his career lots of good as Detroit’s fill-in starter at point guard.
▪ Any realistic chance of the Hornets reaching the playoffs is about who they beat, not just how many games they win the rest of the way. Games against the Pistons and 76ers loom larger (the series with the Heat is already complete).
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford said pregame he will remind center Dwight Howard he now has only four technical fouls this regular season before he would be suspended for a game. Howard was called for his 12th tech Friday in Washington. If a player reaches 16 technicals in a regular season, it’s an automatic one-game suspension.
▪ With this being a 1 p.m. Sunday tipoff, the Hornets did youth-oriented staging, including kid dancers and game hosts.
▪ Clifford said perhaps the best thing about Jeremy Lamb’s presence in the Hornets’ second unit this season is his ability to create his own shot off the dribble.
▪ The Pistons’ Anthony Tolliver was charged with a flagrant foul 1 (the lesser infraction) for making contact with Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky’s head, trying to block a layup in the fourth quarter.
▪ Before the game, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Wisconsin in the mid-90s, said the NCAA and college presidents should be culpable along with coaches, for college basketball’s current troubles.
▪ The Hornets held a moment of silence pregame for the passing of evangelist Billy Graham.
▪ Griffin’s frustration – he was in early foul trouble – spilled over in the fourth quarter when he was charged with a technical foul.
A+ OFFENSE: Simplistic as it sounds, any team looks good offensively when shots fall. The Hornets starting this game making 13 of their first 25 3s built quite a cushion.
B DEFENSE: And likewise, the Pistons making four of their first 14 3s made the Hornets’ defense look plenty solid Sunday.
A COACHING: Day games are always tricky in the NBA. Steve Clifford’s players jumped on the Pistons early and made this one look easy.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell
Hornets 114, Pistons 98
DETROIT (98)—Johnson 3-4 2-2 9, Griffin 10-18 0-0 20, Drummond 7-13 0-1 14, Smith 6-11 0-2 13, Bullock 5-14 3-4 14, Ennis III 2-5 4-4 9, Tolliver 0-2 0-0 0, Ellenson 3-5 1-1 7, Moreland 0-0 0-0 0, Nelson 0-2 0-0 0, Galloway 0-4 0-0 0, Buycks 6-7 0-0 12, Kennard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 42-85 10-14 98.
CHARLOTTE (114)—Kidd-Gilchrist 3-6 0-3 6, Williams 3-7 0-0 8, Howard 8-10 1-2 17, Walker 5-11 5-5 17, Batum 5-10 1-1 15, Bacon 0-0 0-0 0, Kaminsky 4-9 2-4 13, Zeller 6-9 1-2 13, Hernangomez 0-2 0-0 0, Monk 0-5 0-0 0, Carter-Williams 3-6 3-4 10, Graham 1-3 1-2 4, Lamb 4-10 0-0 11. Totals 42-88 14-23 114.
3-Point Goals—Detroit 4-18 (Johnson 1-1, Smith 1-1, Ennis III 1-2, Bullock 1-5, Tolliver 0-1, Ellenson 0-1, Nelson 0-1, Griffin 0-3, Galloway 0-3), Charlotte 16-35 (Batum 4-7, Kaminsky 3-5, Lamb 3-6, Walker 2-4, Williams 2-5, Graham 1-1, Carter-Williams 1-4, Monk 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Detroit 41 (Drummond 14), Charlotte 47 (Howard 12). Assists—Detroit 23 (Smith 8), Charlotte 28 (Batum 9). Total Fouls—Detroit 22, Charlotte 19. Technicals—Griffin. A—17,894 (19,077).