Hornets anxious for playoffs, Heat

CHARLOTTE, NC (WCCB Charlotte) — The Hornets have shown vast improvement in the regular season. They are now ready to prove they are that same team in the playoffs.

“We’re locked in, man. We are just ready to go and ready to play,” guard Kemba Walker said. “This is what we have been waiting for all year.”

The Hornets have 15 more wins and 375 more three-pointers than last year’s team. The emergence of the outside shot, which has netted an average of nine points per game more this season, is a big reason the Hornets are back in the playoffs. Charlotte is also a different team because of depth. Al Jefferson, Jeremy Lin, Frank Kaminsky are three key guys that Steve Clifford can look to for scoring off the bench.

“There’s nothing more important than looking around the locker room, that says if we play well, we can be good,” Clifford said. “We are not overpowering, but when we have everyone ready we can be damn good.”

Clifford expects to have forward Nic Batum available. He exited Monday’s 114-100 win over Boston with a hurt ankle which caused him to miss Wednesday’s season finale against Orlando.

“I (am) trying to get my rhythm back,” Batum said of the extra work after practice. “I missed a couple games and there’s a long time before the next game. I’ll be fine.”

The Hornets and Heat split the four meetings this season. Head coach Steve Clifford expects this match-up to be decided by Charlotte’s ability to slow down Miami in the paint.

“We had trouble (against them),” Clifford said. “It’s drives, pick and rolls, cuts.  It’s second shots.”

What is working for Charlotte is the momentum created the last three months of the season. Since February 1, the Hornets, with a 26-9 mark, have the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Game one is Sunday at 5:30 in Miami.