CHARLOTTE — Gordon Hayward came to Charlotte looking for an expanded role and an opportunity to turn a struggling Hornets franchise into a winner.
The 30-year-old small forward is getting both done while playing some of the best basketball of his career.
Hayward scored 34 points and the Charlotte Hornets beat the New York Knicks 109-88 on Monday night for their fourth straight win. Hayward has been on fire for the Hornets during the team’s winning streak, averaging 29.2 points while shooting 55% from the floor and 92% from the foul line.
“It’s been a lot of fun playing with my new teammates and under this coaching staff,” Hayward said. “I’m having a great time. As long as we keep doing our jobs and playing hard every night I think the wins and losses will take are of themselves.”
Hayward scored 28 points in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 10-of-10 shooting from the foul line to give the Hornets 57-50 lead at halftime. He finished 11 of 17 from the field as the Hornets came in with an aggressive approach against a Knicks team playing on the second night of a back-to-back.
“This is why we brought Gordon Hayward here,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “He set the tone for us and came out aggressive. He understands the significance of every game.”
Devonte Graham had 19 points and seven assists for Charlotte, and P.J. Washington had 13 points as the Hornets handed the Knicks their third straight defeat.
Kevin Knox had 19 points to lead the Knicks, and Mitchell Robinson had 12 points and 11 rebounds.
The Hornets scored 24 points off 17 Knicks turnovers. Charlotte committed 10 turnovers while climbing above .500 for the first time this season.
Knicks guard Austin Rivers said everyone needs to take a “deep breath” and not worry about the team’s losing streak.
“We have played some of the best teams in the NBA … and half of our team is out with injuries,” Rivers said. “So guys have to step up and be better. Our defense has been horrendous and that has led to a bad offense.”
LaMelo Ball, who became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double on Saturday night against the Hawks, was 3 of 13 from the field and finished with eight points, a career-high 14 rebounds and seven assists.
The Hornets wrap up a three-game home stand Wednesday night against the Mavericks.