The Charlotte Hornets’ road loss to the Phoenix Suns Jan. 6 might have been their worst performance of the season.
They made amends Tuesday by playing as dominantly as they have all season in the rematch. The Hornets jumped out to an 18-point first-quarter lead and never looked back in a 126-92 blowout at Time Warner Cable Arena.
This was the Hornets’ first home game since before the mid-February All-Star break. They thumped a Suns team that last won a road game Dec. 7 in Chicago. The Suns fell to 15-45 at the outset of a four-game East Coast trip.
The wide margin allowed coach Steve Clifford to rest his starters for much of the fourth quarter. That’s a significant plus considering the Hornets play Wednesday night in Philadelphia against the 76ers.
The Hornets improved to 31-28 on the season.
Three who mattered
Nic Batum: He bounced back from two bad games offensively against the Indiana Pacers and Atlanta Hawks, finishing with 15 poitns and nine rebounds.
Kemba Walker: This was his 20th game of 20 or more points in the last 28 games.
Al Jefferson: He is scoring very efficiently off the bench. He definitely has his shooting rhythm back after missing six weeks with a knee injury.
▪ Hornets already hold tiebreakers over the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls. Winning either game this month versus the Detroit Pistons would clinch another tiebreaker.
▪ Marvin Williams has quietly put together one of his best NBA seasons. He’s at career highs for rebounds (6.8 per game), blocks (1) and 3-pointers made (1.7).
▪ The Hornets’ 35 first-quarter points were three short of their best first quarter this season.
▪ The Hornets’ 68 first-half points were three short of their high for the season.
▪ Only three Phoenix players had more than one field goal in the first half.
▪ Clifford said reserve center Spencer Hawes (lower back strain) is at least a week away from being able to practice.
▪ The Hornets signed point guard Jorge Gutierrez to a second 10-day contract.
▪ Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera and his wife, Stephanie, sat courtside near the Hornets bench, as did Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.
A+ OFFENSE: The ball movement was crisp, leading to a number of backdoor layups and open jump shots. The Hornets reached 10 3-pointers for the 34th time this season.
A DEFENSE: When you hold any NBA team to 61 points through three quarters, you’re doing good work defensively.
A COACHING: The quick start Tuesday was quite a reversal of Sunday’s dreadful first quarter in Atlanta.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell