Charlotte Hornets

Exceptional first half launches Charlotte Hornets past Washington Wizards

Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard (12) assembled his 25th double-double of the season Wednesday against the Washington Wizards.
Charlotte Hornets center Dwight Howard (12) assembled his 25th double-double of the season Wednesday against the Washington Wizards. AP

Shoot, the Charlotte Hornets looked good offensively Wednesday.

Shoot, they did, making half of their first 24 attempts from 3-point range, to build a lead of as much as 28 over the Washington Wizards. The Hornets cruised to a 133-109 victory at Spectrum Center in coach Steve Clifford’s return from a medical leave.

The Hornets set a record for most first-half points, reaching 77 for a 16-point halftime lead. The win improved the Hornets to 18-25, as they try to climb back into playoff contention.

The game got a little odd in the closing minutes, when the Hornets’ Michael Carter-Williams and Washington’s Tim Frazier were both ejected with about four minutes left, resulting from a fracas. It started after Wizards reserve big man Jason Smith was called for a foul. With Carter-Williams ejected, the Wizards got to choose which Hornet would take two free throws. Naturally, the Wizards chose center Dwight Howard, a 53 percent foul shooter. However, Howard made both.

Howard finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 points, and Kemba Walker finished with 19 points and seven assists.

Three who mattered

Howard: He thoroughly outplayed Wizards center Marcin Gortat, who’s been known to give the Hornets trouble.

Bradley Beal: John Wall is the Wizards’ best all-around player, but Beal (26 points) has a gift as a scorer the Hornets could sure use.

Kidd-Gilchrist: He contributed efficiently to the offense, making eight of his first 11 points and getting to the foul line often.

Observations

▪  What a start to this game shooting-wise for the Hornets. They made their first 10 attempts from the field, covering approximately the game’s first 6 1/2 minutes.

▪  Hornets forward Marvin Williams entered this game fourth in the NBA in 3-point percentage (among players qualifying with enough attempts). He completed a four-point play in the first quarter. Williams said at morning shootaround he had no idea his 3-point percentage ranked that high this season.

▪  A winter storm dramatically limited how many Hornets fans used their tickets Wednesday. Since the Wizards were in town Tuesday night, there was never consideration of postponing this game.

Where the Charlotte Hornets stand, as coach Steve Clifford returns from medical leave, on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.

▪  This was Clifford’s first game back from a medical leave of more than a month, to address severe headaches tied to sleep deprivation. The Hornets went 9-12 with Clifford out, with associate head coach Stephen Silas filling in.

▪  Three technical fouls were called in the first half on individuals, plus another on the Hornets for defensive 3-seconds. You have to wonder if the sparse crowd created so little noise that it didn’t drown out some of the loud complaining players and coaches do in the course of an NBA game.

Worth mentioning

▪  Clifford continued the tight veteran-leaning rotation Silas used. Neither rookie, Malik Monk nor Dwayne Bacon, played in the first half.

▪  Clifford always says this is a “make-or-miss” league: The Hornets made nine of their first 16 attempts from 3-point range.

▪  This was the first of five consecutive home games for the Hornets. Conversely, this was the first of five road games for the Wizards.

Report card

A+ OFFENSE: Reaching 100 points before the end of the third quarter? Unreal, but that’s what happens when you make all those 3-pointers..

B- DEFENSE: Clifford’s big concern was the Wizards getting out in transition; Washington had 16 fast-break points in the first three quarters.

A COACHING: This one was a template for how the rest of the five-game home stand must look for the Hornets to get back into playoff contention.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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