Charlotte Hornets

Hornets tie season high in points, demolish Suns 135-115 at home for 3rd straight win

Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker (15) drives past Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker (15) drives past Phoenix Suns’ Deandre Ayton (22) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) AP

As Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego frequently reminds the public, offense is far from his team’s primary problem.

That couldn’t have been more apparent Saturday night at Spectrum Center, as the Hornets (22-23) steamrolled the Phoenix Suns (11-36) 135-115 en route to their third consecutive victory. Not only that, but in the process, Charlotte tied its season high for points scored, equaling the 135 they put on the Chicago Bulls in October.

After coming from behind against the Sacramento Kings on Thursday night, the Hornets instead opened up an early 16-point lead that endured for the entire game. And while All-Star point guard Kemba Walker led the team in scoring with 21, it was a balanced attack — eight players finished in double digits — that allowed the Hornets to race out to such a large lead.

Charlotte was comfortably ahead for most of the game before Phoenix cut the lead to 11 with about 6 minutes left. At that point, Borrego re-inserted his starters, who were able to pull ahead for good.

Now the question is whether or not the Hornets can carry that offensive momentum over to their next game against Indianapolis. If so, Charlotte is in line for its longest winning streak of the year.

Three who mattered

DeAndre Ayton: The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft got in foul trouble early and ended up leaving the game early with a left ankle sprain.

Jeremy Lamb: He tied a career-high with five made 3-pointers, including two in the third quarter that gave the Hornets breathing room.

Bismack Biyombo: An and-one in the fourth quarter gave him his second double-double of the season, and he also had five blocked shots.

Observations

▪  The easiest explanation for the Hornets’ 21-5 run to start Saturday’s game? Charlotte shot 6-for-7 to open play, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range, compared to just 2-for-9 for Phoenix.

▪  Some nice play from guard Malik Monk in the second quarter, including one possession where he passed up a questionable shot and instead made the easy pass to Nic Batum, who was then fouled. Monk was the first guard off the bench Saturday over Tony Parker and Devonte Graham.

▪  Charlotte’s 71 first-half points are the second-most in any game this season, and its 109 through three quarters is the most all year.

▪  Eight Hornets finished with double-digit points, including Walker, Batum, Lamb, Biyombo, Marvin Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Parker and Miles Bridges.

▪  Rookie guard Devonte Graham, who recently joined the rotation after filling in well for an injured Lamb, only played the final few minutes of the game, but still managed to sink a 3-pointer.

Worth mentioning

▪  It was another classic night Saturday, as the team honored the only three-time All-Star in franchise history, Glen Rice. Rice is the only Hornet to ever lead the NBA in 3-point shooting, and he also won the 1997 All-Star Game MVP over current Hornets team owner Michael Jordan.

▪  This is just the Hornets’ second three-game winning streak of the season. The other came in early December, when the team defeated the Denver Nuggets at home, the New York Knicks on the road, and then the Detroit Pistons at home.

▪  In advance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day next week, both teams wore “I Have a Dream” warm-up shirts with a passage from Dr. King’s famous speech on the back.

They said it

“I was impressed with Ayton (two weeks ago). His physicality inside, his skill level inside — he hurt us inside last game, so gotta do a better job on him.” – Coach James Borrego pregame on Phoenix’s rookie center DeAndre Ayton, who was the No. 1 overall pick in last summer’s draft.

“We’re all stealing. We’re all thieves really, at the end of the day.” – Borrego on coaches taking schematic tips from each other, like he and Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov do.

Report card

A+ OFFENSE: Over 50 percent shooting from the floor and 47.1 percent from 3 — like Borrego says, offense isn’t this team’s main problem.

B+ DEFENSE: Third wire-to-wire win of the season, but the hapless Suns were still able to put together several runs of 7 or more points.

A- COACHING: Borrego was forced to put his starters back in late to preserve the win, but a third straight game of defensive intensity — three straight wins, coincidentally — means he has his players in the right mindset.

HORNETS 135, SUNS 115

Phoenix

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

F

Pt

Mik.Bridges

26:17

3-8

1-1

1

4

9

Warren

33:59

6-12

3-4

3

2

16

Ayton

21:40

4-7

2-2

2

3

10

Booker

37:32

10-23

10-12

2

0

32

Melton

13:14

1-1

0-0

1

1

3

Oubre Jr.

30:04

9-15

2-3

3

3

24

Jackson

27:46

3-12

2-5

3

4

8

Holmes

14:20

2-3

0-0

4

1

4

Okobo

12:40

0-2

2-2

2

3

2

Daniels

10:28

1-2

2-2

0

3

5

Acy

9:26

0-1

2-2

5

2

2

Bender

2:34

0-1

0-0

0

0

0

Totals

240:00

39-87

26-33

26

26

115

Percentages: FG .448, FT .788. 3-Point Goals: 11-33, .333 (Oubre Jr. 4-8, Mik.Bridges 2-5, Booker 2-7, Melton 1-1, Warren 1-1, Daniels 1-2, Acy 0-1, Bender 0-1, Okobo 0-2, Jackson 0-5). Team Rebounds: 15. Team Turnovers: 7 (9 PTS). Blocked Shots: 7 (Oubre Jr. 2, Warren 2, Ayton, Melton, Mik.Bridges). Turnovers: 7 (Oubre Jr. 2, Warren 2, Jackson, Melton, Okobo). Steals: 7 (Mik.Bridges 3, Ayton, Daniels, Oubre Jr., Warren). Technical Fouls: Holmes, 00:26 first.

Charlotte

Min

FG-A

FT-A

R

F

Pt

Batum

32:26

4-6

5-5

3

2

15

Williams

22:07

4-7

3-3

4

5

14

Biyombo

27:17

5-7

1-1

13

2

11

Lamb

23:54

6-9

1-1

5

1

18

Walker

32:34

9-22

0-0

8

1

21

Kidd-Gilchrist

24:18

3-4

4-6

3

5

10

Monk

18:38

3-6

0-1

1

2

7

Parker

18:28

4-8

6-6

1

2

14

Mil.Bridges

17:49

4-10

2-2

2

0

10

Hernangomez

17:20

4-6

1-2

13

6

9

Graham

2:34

1-1

0-0

0

0

3

Bacon

2:34

1-2

0-0

0

0

3

Totals

240:00

48-88

23-27

53

26

135

Percentages: FG .545, FT .852. 3-Point Goals: 16-34, .471 (Lamb 5-7, Williams 3-4, Walker 3-10, Batum 2-3, Bacon 1-1, Graham 1-1, Monk 1-4, Kidd-Gilchrist 0-1, Parker 0-1, Mil.Bridges 0-2). Team Rebounds: 5. Team Turnovers: 16 (21 PTS). Blocked Shots: 8 (Biyombo 5, Mil.Bridges, Walker, Williams). Turnovers: 16 (Walker 5, Batum 3, Hernangomez 2, Parker 2, Williams 2, Biyombo, Monk). Steals: 5 (Walker 2, Batum, Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk).

Phoenix

26

34

26

29

115

Charlotte

39

32

38

26

135

Att.—19,278 (19,077).

Officials—Mousa Dagher, Scott Wall, David Guthrie

Brendan Marks: 704-358-5889, @BrendanRMarks

Brendan Marks is a general assignment sports reporter for the Charlotte Observer covering the Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, NASCAR and more. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and has worked for the Observer since August 2017.

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