Hornets hope to make up ground vs. Pistons

NBA Basketball

The Charlotte Hornets welcome the Detroit Pistons on Saturday looking to improve their postseason position at the regular season’s home stretch.

With 10 games to go, Charlotte (30-32) sits at eighth in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets have lost ground, losing seven of their last 10 and closing out the month of April at 6-10 after a 120-111 loss Wednesday in Boston.

“We’ve been in a better position throughout the season,” Hornets coach James Borrego said in his postgame press conference on Wednesday. “This is where we’re at. I love where we’re at. We’ve put ourselves in position to make the playoffs.”

Despite the skid, Charlotte remains in position to reach the Eastern Conference play-in tournament and is currently one of two seeds requiring just one win to advance.

Saturday’s contest is the first half of a back-to-back for Charlotte, the second leg of which pits the Hornets against Miami. The Heat are seventh in the East, leading Charlotte by 2.5 games ahead of their own game Saturday against Cleveland.

Devonte’ Graham rides a recent scoring hot streak into the weekend set. Since scoring just eight points on 3-of-16 shooting April 23 against the Cavs, he has made 17 combined 3-pointers and scored 74 total points in the last three games.

Graham’s perimeter scoring is needed with Gordon Hayward out of the lineup. Hayward – Charlotte’s second-leading scorer for the season at 19.6 points per game — has not played since April 2 due to a foot injury.

Charlotte has also been without LaMelo Ball since March 22, the result of a fractured wrist. Ball was emerging as a leading Rookie of the Year contender with his 15.9-point and 6.1-assist per game averages before the injury.

Detroit (19-44) has relied heavily on its own contingent of rookies down the stretch. Three started in the Pistons’ 115-105 loss to Dallas on Thursday: Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart.

Stewart scored a career-high 20 points in the loss, Hayes dished a career-high 11 assists and Bey had his second consecutive game making at least three 3-pointers en route to 18 points.

“He continues to get better each and every day,” Bey said of his fellow rookie Stewart in Thursday’s postgame press conference. “The confidence is always there, so he’s just taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Stewart’s increased role has resulted in the first-year post player logging at least 27 minutes in six of Detroit’s last eight games and making four starts in that same stretch.

Detroit had a limited rotation available Thursday with veterans Jerami Grant, Cory Joseph and Wayne Ellington all sidelined for injury management, and Mason Plumlee taking a scheduled rest.

Grant — Detroit’s season-long leading scorer at 22.5 points per game — scored 32 points in Detroit’s previous matchup with Charlotte. The Hornets won that encounter on March 11, 105-102.

Grant’s appearances have been sporadic in recent weeks, with the guard sitting seven of the Pistons’ last 12 games. Detroit is 3-4 in those contests.

–Field Level Media

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