Advertisement

Charlotte Hornets host Cleveland Cavaliers in midst of playoff race

By
The Sports Xchange
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during free-throw attempts. James scored a game-high 31 points in November against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte. Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James stands on the court during free-throw attempts. James scored a game-high 31 points in November against the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte. Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE

The Charlotte Hornets' improbable run at the playoffs continues Wednesday night when they host a team right in the thick of the Eastern Conference fray, the Cleveland Cavaliers, in Charlotte, N.C.

The Hornets (34-41) found themselves rooting for the Cavaliers when Cleveland visited Miami on Tuesday night.

Advertisement

Unfortunately for both the Hornets and the Cavaliers, Cleveland came up short, 98-79, in the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade reunion in Miami.

While the Cavaliers (44-30) remained atop the Central Division despite the loss, the Hornets' longshot hopes of making the playoffs took a hit when they fell another half-game behind the Heat (40-35).

RELATED Dwyane Wade blocks LeBron James' shot into the seats

The Hornets might have to win out to catch either the Heat or Milwaukee for the final spot in the East. That would mean adding seven more wins to their current four-game winning streak.

Charlotte got the usual 1-2 punch from Dwight Howard (23 points, 13 rebounds) and Kemba Walker (31 points) in Monday's 137-128 overtime win over New York.

But the Hornets also received a surprising contribution from their bench, with four reserves scoring in double figures as part of a 52-point contribution by the backups.

Advertisement
RELATED LeBron James had 'no inspiration' for how to speak out politically

A double-figure output has become nothing new to rookie Malik Monk, who had just five games with 10 or more points in the first five months of the season.

He's now had five more in March, including 11 apiece in Charlotte's last two wins.

Asked recently to explain why some of his best efforts have come in some of the Hornets' biggest games, the Kentucky product had a veteran-type response.

RELATED Spoelstra expected back when Heat meet Cavaliers

"I'm a basketball player; I don't get nervous," he insisted. "I've been waiting to play [at the NBA level] my whole life."

Playing against James is a whole other thing.

The perennial Most Valuable Player candidate has dominated the Hornets in a pair of Cavaliers wins this season, going for 31 points, six rebounds and eight assists in a 115-107 win at Charlotte in November, then 27 points, 16 rebounds and 13 assists in a 100-99 home triumph nine days later.

James was held to 18 points on 7-for-18 shooting in the loss to Miami on Tuesday. He had to endure 38 minutes on the front end of a back-to-back.

At least James walked away healthy. The Cavaliers might have to go without Kevin Love at Charlotte.

Advertisement

The club's second-leading scorer took a shot in the mouth in the loss at Miami and sat out the second half with a loose front tooth.

A Love absence would create a greater opportunity for Jeff Green, who is trying to earn a spot in the Cavaliers' postseason rotation.

Green didn't help his cause with a 2-for-10, five-point effort when given a start against the Heat.

"Coach [Tyronn] Lue will make that decision when he comes back," interim head coach Larry Drew said of the playoff rotation. Lue remains away from the team while dealing with a health issue.

"There's certainly some different combinations that we want to see," Drew said, citing Larry Nance Jr. and Tristan Thompson as alternatives. "But we made the decision to go back to that lineup [with Green starting]."

Latest Headlines