In a season in which the Charlotte Hornets have had to play more games undermanned than they can probably count at this point, a 117-109 road victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night might end up being their most impressive performance of the campaign.
PJ Washington led the Hornets in scoring for the second straight night, finishing with 28 points – 14 in the third quarter – on 11-of-22 shooting, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block. Gordon Hayward also had a 25-point showing and a season-high nine assists to help the victors overcome the absences of their three leading scorers in LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Charlotte blazed its way to an 18-point advantage early in the second quarter and eventually entered halftime with a 69-55 lead. The Hornets kept their foot on the gas to go up 21 with about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, before Dallas then ripped off a 27-7 run to make it a one-point game by the 8:30 mark of the fourth.
The visitors immediately responded with a 10-0 stretch to retake a double-digit lead, then continued to seemingly make play after play down the stretch to keep Dallas at bay. A Luka Dončić floater with 37 seconds remaining pulled Dallas to within five, but Dennis Smith Jr.’s 31-foot, shot-clock-beating 3-pointer on the next possession iced the game for Charlotte.
“These guys are good, so even when sometimes it appears like you might not have a great chance, guys play well,” said Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford afterwards. “We had a bunch of guys play really well. Gordon and PJ were terrific. We made all our threes early, which allowed us to play from ahead. We made a lot of plays at both ends of the floor, when they made their run in the fourth quarter. Definitely a good win and something that we can grow from, hopefully.”
Smith (13), Svi Mykhailiuk (13), Mark Williams (13), JT Thor (career-high 12) and Nick Richards (10) also scored in double figures for Charlotte, with Richards grabbing 11 rebounds for his second double-double in three games. The Hornets ended the night shooting 48%, 39% on 3-pointers (11-of-28) and committed just eight turnovers, marking their third time with fewer than 10 giveaways in a game since Jan. 18.
Of note, Williams came off the bench and was back in the rotation for the first time since suffering a right thumb sprain in Detroit back on March 9. “It felt good to play spoiler a bit,” he said afterwards. “Obviously, that game has got a lot of implications for [Dallas]. For me personally, to get back out there, get into a little bit of a groove and find a way to win, it was definitely good being back.”
Dončić nearly triple-doubled with 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, 10 rebounds and eight assists for a Dallas team that shot only 9-of-36 from 3-point range (25%) and with the loss, fell outside of the Western Conference’s Play-In spots for the time being. Kyrie Irving added another 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, while Dwight Powell had 14 points on 7-of-7 shooting.
The Hornets will square off with the Mavericks once again back home on Sunday, March 26 beginning at 1 PM ET. Follow all the action on Bally Sports Southeast and WFNZ 92.7 FM.