Mark Williams had 18 points and 20 rebounds as the Charlotte Hornets earned their fourth straight win by beating the Miami Heat, 108-103.
PJ Washington missed the game with a foot strain, so JT Thor took his spot in the starting lineup while Kai Jones played the backup minutes at the four.
The Hornets defended their hineys off in the first quarter. They held the Heat to just 16 first quarter points on 5-of-24 shooting. The Heat got up a lot of shots around the baskets, but the Hornets did enough to force misses on the up close looks and did a good job ending the possessions with rebounds. Mark Williams alone gobbled up eight total rebounds in the first quarter as the Hornets jumped out to a 29-16 lead after one.
The Hornets started the second quarter strong with back to back and-1s from Kelly Oubre—the first on layup and the second on a 3-pointer. The Hornets lead grew to as large as 22, and the good times were accentuated by a massive dunk by Dennis Smith Jr.
DENNIS HAD SPECTRUM CENTER SHAKING@Dennis1SmithJr | @drpepper | @HornetsOnBally pic.twitter.com/pjnsnlq0C3— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) February 26, 2023
The Heat eventually made up some ground as Tyler Herro got hit from distance before seven straight points pulled them within three at the break. Mark Williams finished the first half with six points and 15 rebounds.
After a Bam Adebayo layup pulled the Heat within two, LaMelo Ball caught fire. He hit three 3-pointers within four Hornets possessions with Gordon Hayward tossing in a basket on the other possession. The Hornets worked off the roughly ten point stiff arm created for most of the second quarter. Ball spoon-fed Mark Williams a couple easy buckets while the Hornets rookie big continued to clean up the glass on both ends. All of it helped the Hornets to an 82-72 lead heading into winning time.
The Heat scored nine straight points to start the fourth quarter, but the run was staved off by another pair of Ball 3-pointers. That was countered by a 7-0 Heat run to tie the game. The teams traded blows from there with the Hornets doing most of their work around the basket while the Heat were dependent on the free throw line. The game was within one point with just under a minute-and-a-half to go before Ball found Williams inside for a layup. Tyler Herro missed a three on the other end, then Williams snared a rebound of a Terry Rozier dagger attempt and threw in a dunk to serve as a dagger of his own. The Heat missed a 3-point attempt on the ensuing possession and let the final score hold.
Not only did Mark Williams put up career highs in both points and rebounds, he looked noticeably more confident and comfortable on the court than he did in early parts of the season. LaMelo Ball joined him as a top performer with 19 points and 13 assists, while Gordon Hayward was his typical efficient self with 21 points on just 14 shots. Kelly Oubre and Dennis Smith Jr. both had very big games off the bench with 15 points apiece.
With the Hornets in the tanking race, they’ve now won four games in a row. Up next is a visit from the Pistons, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Hornets make it five on Monday.