The Hornets trotted out a starting lineup of Ish Smith, Kelly Oubre, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, and PJ Washington, and that quintet started better than expected. Oubre hit a trio of early triples as the Hornets acquired a modest early lead. JT Thor got some early first quarter burn, but he was just a bit off with both of his 3-point attempts. The Hornets played level with the Hawks all quarter long. The game was all knotted up at 30 after one quarter of play.
James Bouknight checked into the game to start the second quarter for his first career first half minutes. Bridges and Hayward each had strong stretches in the second quarter to join Oubre in double figures. The Hornets even led by double digit points at a few different points in the quarter. At the half, the Hornets led 68-61.
The Hornets hit 3-pointers on their first two possessions of the second half (including a surprising one from Ish Smith) to build their lead back up to 11. A short time later, the Hawks hit three straight 3-pointers to erase the deficit, and they eventually took the lead back. After a back and forth quarter, Gordon Hayward and Cody Martin combined to take the Hornets on a 12-0 run to go back up by ten. The Hornets had a chance to make that the margin heading into the fourth, but Martin’s buzzer beating three was on his fingertips for a split second too long. The Hornets led by seven heading into the fourth.
The Hornets offense went ice cold to start the fourth quarter. A lot of possessions devolved into isolations leading to long jump shots as the Hawks jumped out to a 11-2 start to the quarter. A James Borrego timeout either settled the Hornets down or woke up Miles Bridges. The fourth year forward took over the offense after an Ish Smith layup and pulled the Hornets within striking distance so a Kelly Oubre three could tie the game. A Bridges three put the Hornets back in the lead. The Hornets tried to manage time after another Oubre three put the Hornets up four. Bridges continued to dominate the fourth quarter, as his pull-up jumper over John Collins put the Hornets up six with a minute to go. A Kevin Huerter three kept the Hawks alive, but it was answered by a PJ Washington dunk that was spoon-fed by Cody Martin. The teams exchanged a couple of baskets each way, but the Hornets were never in danger from that point on.
Martin added to the offensive outbursts of Bridges and Oubre with a career high 19 points. PJ Washington joined him with 13 points off the bench while Gordon Hayward and Ish Smith chipped in 18 apiece from the starting lineup.
The defense wasn’t ideal, but the Hawks are one of the best offensive teams in the league. The Hornets stealing this win makes the rest of this stretch without Ball, Rozier, and others a little easier to deal with. They won’t go winless if nothing else.
The Hornets will have their depth and mettle tested, as they’ll be back on the floor again tomorrow night against the 76ers.