By David W. Walters
The Hornets jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en-route to a 99-86 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night in Greenville, S.C. Charlotte took advantage of an abysmal shooting performance by the Wizards, who only managed to shoot 37% from the field.
The Hornets showed a much stronger defense against the Wizards, clamping down when needed and forcing bad looks at the basket. This is more typical of the top ranked defense that we saw last season under coach Steve Clifford.
Gary Neal led the Hornets in scoring for the second straight game with 19 points starting in place of Lance Stephenson, who sat out with a toe injury. Al Jefferson had a solid game in the post with 12 points and 10 rebounds and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had a nice all-around performance with six points, nine rebounds and four assists.
The Hornets played noticeably better throughout the game and everything seemed to click right from the jump in this one. Each starter has at least three assists as the ball moved with more fluidity on the offensive side.
Rookie P.J. Hairston had another solid game for the Hornets scoring 13 points. The combined three-point shooting between Hairston and Neal has been encouraging so far this preseason, as that was an obvious area of need going into this season. Hairston and Neal shot 3-4 and 3-5 respectively from the arc, while third-string guard Jannero Pargo was 4-7 from long range for 15 points of his own.
Xavier Silas led the Wizards in scoring with 16 points, knocking down four three-pointers, while second year forward Otto Porter chipped in 14 off the bench.
Gerald Henderson sat out while he rehabilitates a hamstring injury and rookie Noah Vonleh continues to work his way back from an offseason sports hernia.
The Hornets (1-1) are back in action in front of their home crowd on Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena when they face off against the Orlando Magic (2-0).
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