Williams, Hornets defeat Heat for 4th straight win

Charlotte had six players with over ten points

Charlotte Hornets guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes up for a slam dunk during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

CHARLOTTE — Rookie center Mark Williams recorded 18 points and 20 rebounds — both career highs — for the Hornets on Saturday night as they defeated the Heat 108-103 at home for their fourth consecutive win.

Following a seven-game losing skid, Charlotte (19-43) is now on its longest winning streak of the season.

Gordon Hayward added 21 points for the Hornets, and Kelly Oubre Jr. and Dennis Smith Jr. each scored 15 points off the bench. 

LaMelo Ball had 19 points and finished with 13 assists for his sixth straight double-double.

For the Heat (32-29), Tyler Herro had a team-high 33 points and Jimmy Butler added 28 points and six assists. Bam Adebayo was limited to 14 points and six rebounds — both short of his season averages.

Charlotte led 29-16 after one quarter but eventually saw its 18-point lead reduced to just three points at halftime.

With two minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Heat came within one point of the Hornets after trailing for the majority of the contest. Williams responded with a layup followed by a dunk to give Charlotte a five-point advantage at the closing buzzer. 

“I think our defense in the fourth quarter was a lot better than our offense,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said after the game. “Mark obviously had the big finish to go plus-5, but Gordon had a big play off the side out of bounds when he drove the ball and got fouled for the and-one. It was a hard-fought win when both teams played two nights in a row.”

Clifford spoke on the growing confidence of Williams; the rookie center finished 9 of 12 from the field. 

“I think everybody’s viewed him as a talented, defensive rim-protector and he’s mobile, so he should be able to play pick-and-roll defense as we go on and everything like that. But he’s also going to be a very good offensive player too.”

When the Hornets sent veteran Mason Plumlee to the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline, Williams was seemingly given the starting center role — a new responsibility that he has embraced with poise.

“The more and more I play, the more and more comfortable I get,” Williams said. “Offensively, getting ready to catch passes from whoever, lobs, drop-offs, on the offensive glass.”

The Hornets are set to host the Detroit Pistons (15-46) on Monday night as both teams look to move out of the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.