Hornets outduel Mavericks, earn 4th straight win

Charlotte had five players with at least 17 points

Charlotte Hornets guards Kelly Oubre Jr., left, and LaMelo Ball, right, vie for a rebound over Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber, center, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Rusty Jones)

CHARLOTTE — Powered by a fiery start from Miles Bridges, the Charlotte Hornets got off to a big lead on Saturday night that set the tone in a 129-108 home win over the Dallas Mavericks.

It was the fourth consecutive win for the Hornets (36-35), who shot 50% from the field and hit 20 3-pointers.

“I love the composure tonight. We just stayed with it,” Hornets coach James Borrego said. “Nobody panicked, even when they cut the lead. You always want to be playing your best basketball right now, and I think our group is locked in. We’re obviously getting healthier. There’s some rhythm here with our group, and I think we’re playing well together.”

While there was no stopping Luka Doncic — the fourth-year guard posted a game-high 37 points on 13-of-20 shooting for Dallas (43-28) — but no other Mavericks player scored more than a dozen points. 

Bridges led Charlotte with 23 points and eight rebounds, but it wasn’t just a one-man show as five different Hornets scored at least 17 points. 

LaMelo Ball added 17 points and seven assists, Terry Rozier provided 18 points and six rebounds, and Kelly Oubre Jr. notched 17 points and six rebounds off the bench. Montrezl Harrell and Isaiah Thomas continued to contribute off the bench, recording a combined 24 points in 16 minutes and 14 minutes played, respectively.

For the third game in a row, P.J. Washington proved to be the Hornets’ X-factor with a combination of efficient shooting and formidable defense. The former Kentucky Wildcats standout has stepped up since moving into the starting lineup because of the absence of Gordon Hayward. 

“I just tried to come out aggressive and find my shots,” Washington said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me. Defensively, I feel like we did great tonight. We held them to 108 and our goal is to hold teams to under 109, so that was perfect for us.”

Despite Charlotte’s 16-2 start to the game, Dallas eventually creeped back into it and even briefly took the lead in the second quarter as Doncic knocked down some heavily contested 3-pointers.

The Hornets responded with an 11-0 run that gave them a 61-52 edge at halftime; Charlotte went on to outscore Dallas by 13 points in the third quarter, providing enough padding for Borrego to rest the Hornets’ starters for long stretches of the fourth quarter.

The past four games have the makings of a turning point for a Charlotte team that lost 15 out of 21 games leading up to this stretch.

“We knew it was going to turn around for us eventually,” Bridges said. “We went on that losing streak and we weren’t playing well in the month of February, but it’s been a good month to us and we’ve been playing good basketball. We want to keep it consistent and that’s on us to do that.”

Charlotte will look to extend its winning streak to five games on Monday night when the New Orleans Pelicans (29-41) visit Spectrum Center.