Washington, Hornets use late-game surge to close out Hawks

Charlotte Hornets forwards P.J. Washington (25) and Miles Bridges (0) bump chests during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks, Wednesday, March 16, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

CHARLOTTE — All tied up at 85 points as the third quarter ended in Wednesday’s matchup between Charlotte and Atlanta, both squads had battled all night in what was a heated divisional contest between two teams fighting for a playoff appearance.

The majority of the fourth quarter played out the same way for the Hornets (35-35) and Hawks (34-35) until P.J. Washington went on a tear in the final five minutes, scoring 13 of his 16 points as Charlotte pulled away to an important 116-106 win.

“I was just trying to be aggressive offensively,” Washington said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me and I was trying to make shots. I think the whole game we did great defensively. We paid attention to detail, everybody was strong on the defensive end — we played a lot better on that end — and fortunately, we got the win.”

With the victory, the Hornets leapfrogged the Hawks into the ninth-place position in the Eastern Conference standings with a .500 record while recording their first three-game winning streak since Jan. 21. 

All five Charlotte starters reached double digits in the scoring column and five Hornets scored at least 16 points in the game; LaMelo Ball led all shooters with 22 points as well as eight rebounds and 11 assists. Terry Rozier and Miles Bridges each posted 18 points as Montrezl Harrell provided a crucial 20-point, six-rebound night off the bench. 

“I think these guys have done a great job with coming together, locking down and paying attention to detail,” Harrell said of his teammates’ recent efforts. “I think that was a really big part of it going into all these last couple of wins that we’ve had. Definitely tonight, we knew where we stood with them so we paid attention to details and took away what we wanted to as far as where the offense went.”

The balanced offensive output was just half of the story when it came to Charlotte’s victory — the Hornets were able to lock down on the other side of the floor by limiting the Hawks’ star point guard Trae Young to just nine points (3 of 12 from the field) after he had scored 46 and 47 points in his two previous games.

Young came into the contest averaging 28.3 points per game, good for fourth in the league within the scoring category. 

“Our guys were locked in. They were focused on the game plan,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “I thought they executed extremely well tonight, holding Trae to his lowest point total of the season…just a fantastic effort defensively.”

De’Andre Hunter led Atlanta with 21 points while Clint Capela recorded 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds; Kevin Huerter brought 16 points and seven rebounds to the mix as Onyeka Okongwu had 14 points. 

Charlotte’s win over the Hawks marked game-one of a five-game homestand that will continue on Saturday against Dallas (43-26) and Monday against New Orleans (28-41).