The Charlotte Hornets came into Atlanta on Wednesday and gave the Hawks their fourth loss in their last five games. Charlotte won the contest 123-110 on the strength of their key players all having outstanding games.
Kemba Walker scored a game-high 38 points on 9-13 three-pointers and 12-22 shooting from the field. Walker made them when his team needed it the most – early in the third quarter.
With 4:28 remaining in the third quarter, the Atlanta Hawks pulled within two points of the visiting Charlotte Hornets. The Hawks hadn’t led the entire game and now were within a layup of earning their first lead of the game.
Then Walker, after scoring 10 first half points, decided to do the bulk of his damage in the third with 18 points, all of which helped put the Hornets up 97-84 at the end of the quarter. Former Atlanta Hawk and Atlanta native Dwight Howard also made his return to Philips Arena after being traded last summer and came away with 20 points, 12 rebounds and a third win over his former team this season.
The two previous Hornets wins were a lot closer than Wednesday night’s game however. Nicolas Batum finished the game with a triple-double; 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. In fact all five Hornets starters were in double-figures. The same couldn’t be said for the Hawks as Kent Bazemore led the way with 25 points (8-11 FG, 6-6 FTs) while Marco Belinelli scored 22 points (4-7 3PTERS) off the bench.
The team’s leading scorer Dennis Schroder only managed to play 29 minutes after injuring his shoulder early in the game. Schroder finished the game with 13 points and nine assists despite the injury that head coach Mike Budenholzer is calling “a sore shoulder”. On the injury Budenholzer said, “I thought he competed and we’ll know more tomorrow.”
Budenholzer also gave credit to the Hornets who shoot 51 percent from the field and 53 percent from three-point range for the game. The Hawks in comparison shot 37.5 percent from three-point range (12-32). “A lot of credit to the way Charlotte shot the ball,” said Budenholzer. “They were very, very good, especially from the three-point line. They did everything well.”
On Kemba Walker’s personal three-point performance: “He just got them every way.” Most over and under screens set by Howard and Frank Kaminsky, who scored 11 points.
The Hawks were down by 12 points at halftime before they pulled within two points in the third and never got closer than a double-figure deficit during the fourth quarter. Treveon Graham came off of the Hornets bench to score 14 points in the game. Despite the big games from Howard and Batum and the excellent three-point shooting by the entire team it was Walker who shone the brightest on this night. A Walker three-pointer out Charlotte ahead 97-84 with less than a minute remaining in the third quarter and another with a little under seven minutes to play in the final quarter made the Charlotte lead 108-94 before both teams emptied the benches.
With games at Boston (on Tuesday) and at New York (on Thursday) the Hawks are going to be playing two playoff caliber teams in three nights before returning home to face the Memphis Grizzlies, another struggling team, on Tuesday.