Howard's big game powers Hornets over Hawks 109-91 in home opener

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Kemba Walker scored 26 points, Dwight Howard had 20 points and 15 rebounds in his first home game with Charlotte, and the Hornets rallied to beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-91 on Friday night.

The Hornets trailed by as many as 20 in the first half, but used a 24-0 run in the third quarter to blow open the game and win their home opener.

Howard, who played last season for his hometown Hawks before being traded away, was unstoppable on the block. The 6-foot-11 eight-time All-Star used his strength to get great position down low and had his pick of shots close to the basket. The Hawks had nobody who could guard him consistently.

Howard punctuated the win by grabbing an offensive rebound with an outstretched hand and then elevating for a powerful two-handed dunk that brought the crowd to its feet with 4 minutes left. Howard left to a rousing ovation with 2:10 remaining in the game.



Charlotte turned the ball over 15 times in a sloppy first half and trailed 56-49 at the break.

But the game changed with 6:32 left in the third quarter. Down 9, the Hornets held the Hawks scoreless for nearly 6 minutes while rattling off 24 straight points. They never trailed again.

Howard's strength down low was a key to the run, and Walker started to heat up, beating defenders off the dribble.  Rookie Dwayne Bacon put the Hornets ahead with 3:40 left in the third quarter with a 3-pointer from the right wing.

Some of the damage was self-inflicted by the Hawks, who missed easy shots, including an alley-oop dunk attempt by Dewayne Dedmon.

Dennis Schroder had 25 points to lead the Hawks.

TIP INS:

Hawks: DeAndre' Bembry (right wrist) and Miles Plumlee (strained right quad) did not play. ... Dedmon knocked down his first two 3-point field goal attempts early in the first quarter, the first 3-pointers of the center's career.

Hornets: Charlotte was without three starters from last year's team: Nicolas Batum (elbow), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (personal reasons) and Cody Zeller (knee bruise). Free agent pickup Michael Carter-Williams (knee) also sat out. ... Howard recorded his 668th career double-double, the most among active players. ... Bacon had 11 rebounds for Charlotte. ... Frank Kaminsky had 21 points.

UP NEXT:

Hawks: Visit Brooklyn on Sunday.

Hornets: Visit Milwaukee on Monday night.

© 2017 Associated Press


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