Surging Hornets cruise past Thunder in 121-98 win

Charlotte is six games over .500 for the first time since the 2015-16 season

Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier (3) makes a layup past Oklahoma City Thunder guard Tre Mann (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

CHARLOTTE — It was snowing outside of the Spectrum Center on Friday night but inside the arena, the Hornets’ shots were raining.

P.J. Washington scored a season-high 20 points off the bench with 6-for-10 3-point shooting as his team picked up a 121-98 home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“I feel like when I’m hitting shots, my game is a lot smoother and it’s just a lot more fun to play,” Washington said. “I’m just trying to be consistent because I feel like I have the ability to do something every night, whether it’s rebounding, getting steals, blocking shots — especially being like an anchor defensively coming in.”

The Hornets (26-20) led by 17 points after the first quarter and didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal for the rest of the matchup, holding the Thunder (14-31) to just 38% shooting from the field. For the first time since the 2015-16 season, Charlotte now sits six games over .500 — the team has won three in a row and 10 of its last 13. 

Terry Rozier topped the Hornets in scoring with 24 points while also posting five rebounds and a team-high nine assists. 

“He’s been playing great this year,” Hornets coach James Borrego said of Rozier. “The best way I could sum it up is that he looks very mature right now. He’s handling the success and he really has the team at the forefront of his mind. This is not an individual deal for him. He really wants his team to perform.”

Gordon Hayward added 16 points and seven rebounds while LaMelo Ball nearly recorded a triple-double — 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists — despite only shooting 4 for 12 from the field. Miles Bridges joined in with an electric second-half effort, finishing with 22 points and a season-best 14 rebounds. 

The fourth-year small forward said that the Hornets’ recent stretch of success has improved the energy inside the Spectrum Center as of late.

“We want our own court to be like how the Warriors’ is and how the Thunder’s was in their prime,” Bridges said. “We want our home court to be like that and we want people to be scared when they come here. So in order for us to do that, we just have to continue to win and continue to dominate teams.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 29 points and six assists. The former Kentucky point guard was the 11th pick of the 2018 NBA draft by Charlotte but was traded to the Clippers on draft night in exchange for Bridges and two future second-round picks. 

Six-foot-8 Australian rookie Josh Giddey added 21 points and nine rebounds for Thunder while Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 12 points and 11 rebounds. 

Charlotte will now have Saturday to rest and gear up for a Sunday night home contest against the Atlanta Hawks (20-25).