Wil­liams’ duck-walk re­flected a night of heavy lift­ing

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY RICK BON­NELL rbon­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

About 45 min­utes after the Char­lotte Hor­nets beat the Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards, for­ward Marvin Wil­liams duck-walked gin­gerly out of the home locker room at Spec­trum Cen­ter. He earned that old-man gait. He had just scored 30 points, three short of match­ing his ca­reer high. He grabbed seven re­bounds. He made the sort of spec­tac­u­lar “Get butts out of seats” dunk Fri­day that he’s said in the past he’s only good for once a sea­son 14 years into his NBA ca­reer.

Wil­liams didn’t sin­gle-hand­edly beat the Wiz­ards 112-111, but with­out him the Hor­nets would have as­suredly lost a sixth con­sec­u­tive home game. He’s a leader, an or­ga­nizer and bot­tom-liner.

Post-game, he was a true be­liever in the Hor­nets’ dicey play­off chances.

“We’ve let a few slip away in the past, but like I’ve said, we’re still look­ing for­ward,” Wil­liams said. “Just got to stay pos­i­tive, we’ve got a lot to play for. Seven­teen is a lot of games.

“It’s not 60 games, it’s not 50 games, but in 17 games any­thing can hap­pen.”

The Hor­nets and Or­lando Magic are chas­ing the Mi­ami Heat for that last play­off spot in the Eastern Con­fer­ence. The Heat en­tered Sat­ur­day a game ahead, but would lose a tiebreaker with the Hor­nets. If the Hor­nets beat the Magic in the fi­nal reg­u­lar-sea­son game, Or­lando would also lose a tiebreaker to Char­lotte.

That’s the up­side to the 30-35 Hor­nets’ chances. The down­side is they have a bru­tal sched­ule the rest of the way. They play their next four on the road start­ing Sat­ur­day in Mil­wau­kee against a Bucks team with the

best record in the NBA. If the Hor­nets man­age to get into the play­offs, it’s more than likely they would play the Bucks in the 1-ver­sus-8 match-up.

Some fans have al­ready thrown up their hands, say­ing the Hor­nets should shut it down, shift play­ing time from vet­er­ans to the young guys and mini-tank for a few ex­tra chances in a weighted draft lot­tery.

The Hor­nets aren’t func­tion­ing that way. Yes, there were un­ex­pected ro­ta­tion shifts Fri­day, par­tic­u­larly Dwayne Ba­con go­ing from Greens­boro Swarm as­signee to sec­ond­half Hor­nets starter. But that was coach James Bor­rego’s push­ing nearly ev­ery but­ton, look­ing for a way to end this home los­ing streak.

IM­PROV

Bor­rego has been im­pro­vi­sa­tional all sea­son with his player groups, but this was be­yond his pre­vi­ous mode of op­er­a­tion: He brought in vet­eran for­ward Michael Kid­dGilchrist early after not us­ing MKG at all the prior three games. Kidd-Gilchrist suf­fered a left knee strain and Bor­rego re­sponded by go­ing that much fur­ther out­side his prior ro­ta­tion, us­ing Ba­con.

Ba­con hadn’t been on the ac­tive ros­ter in 12 of his prior 14 games. Fri­day, he played 25 min­utes — his most since mid-Novem­ber — and re­placed rookie Miles Bridges as the sec­ond-half starter at small for­ward. Bor­rego in­di­cated post-game the Wiz­ards’ small line­ups gave him cause to play Bridges more at power for­ward Fri­day, hence the shift.

Ba­con did well, scor­ing 10 points and play­ing some phys­i­cal de­fense.

“He’s shown he has the po­ten­tial to be a two-way guy (equiv­a­lently ef­fec­tive on of­fense and de­fense) for us,” Bor­rego said of Ba­con. “He’s done a great job stay­ing after it (in Greens­boro), con­tin­u­ing to de­velop, and he was ready for the mo­ment.”

Bor­rego said re­cently he wanted to shorten the ro­ta­tion, but Fri­day was just the op­po­site: The only ac­tive play­ers who didn’t get into the game were guards Ma­lik Monk and Shelvin Mack. Mack was no sur­prise — he’s the emer­gency third point guard — but Fri­day’s win is now the fourth con­sec­u­tive game Monk, the 11th over­all pick in 2017, didn’t play by coach’s de­ci­sion.

GRAND OLD MAN

Wil­liams tied a ca­reer high in 3s made with seven (on 10 at­tempts). He rein­vented him­self as a lon­grange shooter while with the Utah Jazz, but he says he truly re­fined that el­e­ment of his game as a Hor­net, work­ing with then-head coach Steve Clif­ford and then-as­sis­tant Pat De­laney.

Those coaches ad­vised Wil­liams to spend most of his on-court work in the sum­mer out­side the 3point line be­cause the game has so evolv­ing to­ward ev­ery­one from point guards to cen­ters need­ing to be long-range threats. Wil­liams’ range cre­ates spac­ing for point guard Kemba Walker to op­er­ate off the drib­ble.

Walker didn’t have any­thing like his “A” game Fri­day, shoot­ing 6-of-19 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point range.

Wil­liams got a bit fiery Wed­nes­day post-game, fol­low­ing a home loss to the Mi­ami Heat, say­ing he didn’t like what he per­ceived as a neg­a­tive line of me­dia ques­tions.

Fri­day, he changed the con­ver­sa­tion.

“Ev­ery night we just have to come and fo­cus, play with a lot of en­ergy,” Wil­liams said.

“Then see where the chips fall in April.”

Marvin Wil­liams

NELL RED­MOND AP

Hor­nets for­ward Marvin Wil­liams, left, drives into Wiz­ards guard To­mas Sa­toran­sky in Char­lotte on Fri­day. The Hor­nets and Or­lando Magic are chas­ing the Mi­ami Heat for that last play­off spot in the Eastern Con­fer­ence.

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