The Sports Xchange
Posted with permission from The Sports Xchange
The Charlotte Hornets hope a four-day break doesn't stall momentum they gained on the road when they resurface at home Wednesday night against the Dallas Mavericks.
The Mavericks will be playing the second night of a back-to-back, making a one-day trip to Charlotte after having snapped a three-game losing streak with a 114-99 triumph over the Orlando Magic at home Tuesday night.
The Hornets won three of four on a Western swing that featured one of the stunners of the season, a 111-100 thumping of the defending champion Golden State Warriors in the trip opener on Dec. 29.
Charlotte didn't stop there. After a loss in Los Angeles to the Clippers, the Hornets took down the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers to complete a winning trip.
Charlotte will now play eight of the next nine at home, where they have lost eight of their last 11 games. The Hornets are just 10-10 at home this season.
The Hornets see this as a critical stretch if the 15-23 club is going to duplicate the feat of the 2013-14 Bobcats, who also were 15-23 before rallying into a playoff berth.
"We're still confident," star point guard Kemba Walker said. "We just can't rest. We've had a couple of really bad stretches and hopefully that is behind us. We are playing really well as a group. Things are right there for us."
The Hornets have yet to face the Mavericks this season, but did sweep the two-game season series from Dallas a year ago.
Like the Hornets, the Mavericks seemed to be headed in a positive direction with four straight wins recently, including three in a row on their last road trip to Indiana, New Orleans and Oklahoma City.
But they came up short in competitive efforts at home against Golden State (lost by three), Chicago (lost by three) and New York (lost by four), before venting some frustration on the Magic on Tuesday night.
Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle admitted he considered making lineup changes after the three straight losses, all of which featured slow starts, but decided to stick with Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Harrison Barnes, Maxi Kleber and Dirk Nowitzki against Orlando.
It paid off. Dallas outscored the Magic 25-19 in the first period en route to the streak-ending victory.
"A change would open up other challenges that would probably be greater," Carlisle explained of sticking with a unit that has now gone 11-10 as starters. "So we've just simply got to do better. And I know that we can. This is a challenging situation we've got to break through."
Smith and Nowitzki scored 20 points apiece in the win, which was the 708th of Carlisle's coaching career, allowing him to pass John MacLeod for 17th place on the NBA's all-time list.
Wednesday's game will pit Nowitzki, the NBA's active leader in games played with 1,436, against Dwight Howard, who is just eight away from becoming the 18th active player to reach the 1,000 milestone.
Each ranks as the NBA's best among today's players in a key category.
Nowitzki leads all active players in career points with 30,777, while Howard is tops in rebounds with 12,550.