Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Wednesday’s road game vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

By Richard Walker

Notes and observations from Wednesday’s 113-102 Hornets’ road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder that improved Charlotte to 26-24 overall:

… After suffering its largest defeat the season – 116-86 at Boston – on Sunday night, Hornets coach James Borrego vowed changes following Tuesday’s practice session and before Wednesday’s game. He made them by changing the starting lineup and playing rotation. He inserted Jalen McDaniels into the starting lineup at small forward to replace center Bismack Biyombo while moving Miles Bridges from small forward to power forward and P.J. Washington from power forward to center.

… The changes worked masterfully as the Hornets led after each quarter for the 15th time this season. McDaniels, making only his second career start, had a career-high 21 points to go with six rebounds and three assists and Terry Rozier (17 points, two rebounds, five assists), Bridges (16 points, four rebounds), Devonte’ Graham (15 points, four rebounds, five assists), Cody Zeller (15 points, 14 rebounds), Washington (12 points, 7 rebounds) and Brad Wanamaker (12 points, 6 assists) also made big contributions.

… McDaniels said afterward that second-year Hornets development coach Brad Friedman had been a huge supporter of his as he managed little to no playing time for much of his first two seasons with the franchise. “He told me last year in the G League that I needed to stay positive and he put a lot of confidence in me.”

… With LaMelo Ball (wrist), Malik Monk (ankle) and Gordon Hayward (foot) still at least a few weeks away from returning, Borrego says his starting lineup and rotation could take on a game-by-game situation since his options for scoring are more limited. But Borrego was certainly pleased with Wednesday’s results. “Obviously, he (McDaniels) played really well tonight,” Borrego said. “We’re going to need him – his shot making, his length, his ability to run the floor. I’m really proud of him.”

… Charlotte’s improvement to 26-24 on the season gives the Hornets their best 50-game record in 21 years. Only in 1995 (31-19), 1997 and 1998 (30-20), 2000 (29-21), 1993 (27-23) and 1999 (26-24) has the franchise has a winning record after 50 games in a season.

… The lineup of Graham and Rozier at guards, McDaniels and Bridges at forwards and Washington at center was the 14th starting lineup in 50 games this season.

… Borrego continues to take advantage of the coach’s challenge rule; He challenged a third quarter foul call on Washington and got the call overturned. It gives him a 10-2 record this season on his coach’s challenges.

… Zeller’s 28:06 of playing time off the bench was his most since Feb. 3. “Everybody wants to play,” Zeller said. “It’s tought. But you can’t keep everybody happy. As a veteran player, you know you have to be ready for the whole season.”

What’s next: The Hornets complete their their six-game road trip on Friday at 9 p.m. at the Milwaukee Bucks. Charlotte then plays 14 of its last 21 games of the season at home, starting with an April 11 1 p.m. game against Atlanta.