The Hornets let a closely-contested first half turn into a blowout in the second, falling 122-107 at home to the Atlanta Hawks despite 20 points and eight boards from PJ Washington on a career-best 12-for-13 from the free-throw line.
Miles Bridges got the evening going with a pretty spinning lay-in on the Hornets’ first possession, and followed it with a strong dunk on the second. The team got a ton of looks inside in the early-going, some of which they couldn’t get to fall, but it was encouraging to see them work the ball inside and attack a weakness of Atlanta’s. The Hawks came out of the gates hot (4-6 3PT) and took a 19-11 lead into the first media break.
For what may have been the first time since the opening weeks of the season, we had a Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sighting in the first quarter. He hit a corner three (More like MK3,, folks), but also got called for a flagrant one foul for tripping De’Andre Hunter out of frustration after not getting a call. The Hornets gave up some more good looks from beyond the arc towards the end of the quarter, but the Hawks cooled off. Charlotte lead 27-24 after one.
Dwayne Bacon checked in to start the second quarter and immediately found PJ Washington for an and-one chance. Malik Monk got himself into foul trouble after a couple of cheap ones on Trae Young and had to sit down with 10:54 left in the quarter. The Hornets continued playing good-but-not-great defense in the second quarter, and gave up a few easy looks inside off of poor rotation in transition, one of which caused James Borrego to call an angry timeout.
Terry Rozier hit a pair of threes to bring his percentage on catch-and-shoot opportunities to above 50% on the season. Not to toot my own horn, but I told you guys he was good. And to top it all off, he teamed up with Devonte’ and Dwayne to show us a textbook fast break:
MKG and Bacon saw a lot of time in the first half, while Nic Batum was nowhere to be found. He’s a bit banged up, but was still active for the game. Miles led the Hornets with 10 points, PJ had nine, and Terry had eight has the Hornets took a 53-51 lead into the break.
Biz got the second half going much like Miles did in the first; two straight buckets on the interior, one dunk and one deep skyhook. Terry appeared to jam his finger a few minutes into the third, and while he kept playing, he also went 3-for-13 from the field, so it may have affected him. The Hornets started getting to the line in the third and were in the bonus with 5:38 left, one of the few bright spots of their second half. PJ was passing well and found Cody and Biz for a couple of buckets inside, but the defense fell off of a cliff and the Hawks started raining threes again.
We got a vintage Vince Carter performance. He had 17 points in 20 minutes and was 7-for-11 from the floor. I would’ve preferred for him to do it against another team, but it is always fun to see old-man Vince ball out. Nine points and some physical play on the glass from Alex Len helped the Hawks to a 37-point third quarter, and the Hornets went into the fourth down 90-83 after leading at halftime.
The game really got away from Charlotte at the beginning of the fourth. They gave up 12 points to Atlanta in the first 2:25 and found themselves in a hole down 100-85. They momentarily got out of that hole with a 6-0 run that cut the deficit to 10, but Hunter buried a three for the Hawks, sucking out whatever life was left in the Spectrum Center.
To put the icing on the cake, PJ left the game with an ankle sprain after rolling it on a layup attempt with about six minutes remaining in the game. I hope he’s okay, and I would be 100% fine with giving him a day or two off out of precaution.
To truly signal that it was garbage time, Borrego sent the Martin twins and Willy Hernangomez into the game with 3:00 to go. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Trae Young was still in the game at this point for the Hawks; until he went to the locker room after taking Miles’ knee to the mouth when he foolishly tried to defend him at the rim. I should note that along with PJ, Miles played well in the loss. He had 20 points, six rebounds, a steal and went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc and the free-throw line. That sounds like a perfect Miles Bridges game to me.
To end on a high note, Caleb Martin got a gritty second-chance tip-in bucket, and the comment section will be delighted to see that Batum got a DNP-CD. The Hornets gave up a season-high 18 made threes to the Hawks, and their bench scored 57 points. The Hawks are bad, and this probably should’ve been a win considering it’s a home game. But, they came in well-rested after not playing since Wednesday, Trae Young had a quiet 30 points and nine dimes, and they got really good performances from Vince Carter and Alex Len. Wins are nice, but the Hornets just got that much closer to a good draft pick. There’s a spin zone for everything.