It was billed as one of the Hornets “Classic Nights” at the Spectrum Center Friday. Among the events were a Larry Johnson bobblehead doll, a tribute to a pair of former Charlotte Sting players and the team wearing their throwback uniforms.
And on the court, the Hornets showed off their own classic performances in their 112-111 victory over the Wizards in yet another “must win” game.
There was veteran Marvin Williams, shaking off a disappointing effort in Wednesday’s loss to the Heat by having arguably his finest game as a Hornet, with a season-high 30 points and a career-high tying 7-for-10 on 3-pointers.
Head coach James Borrego, partly out of necessity and partly out of desperation, dusted off a couple of players that he rarely uses these days, and both were huge contributors to just the Hornets’ third victory since the All-Star break.
“I’m proud of these guys, they’ve stuck with it,” Borrego said. “Big win for our group. Just to feel this. We’ve lost a couple, tough close games, and to get a win like this is big for our group.”
Dwayne Bacon, who’s only appearance since February was mop-up duty in a blowout loss to the Magic, and who had not played more than 20 minutes in a game since November, played 25 minutes off the bench and had 10 points, including a big 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 89-89.
“As I’ve said the last couple of days, Bacon has done a great job in the G League,” Borrego said. “He’s shown that he could have the potential to be a two-way guy for us. I think he showed that tonight.”
And Willy Hernangomez, who had logged 10 DNP-Coach’s decision games in the Hornets’ last 11 games, played 10 minutes, all in the second half, and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the field and grabbed 4 rebounds, 2 on the offensive end.
“Those were ten big minutes out of Willy,” Borrego said. “We got into foul trouble, we lost (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist) and Willy stepped up in a big role tonight.”
This was a huge victory for a team that has had trouble all season closing out games. The Hornets came into Friday with just a 9-20 record in “clutch games”, which the NBA defines as any game where the margin is five points or less with five minutes to play.
So, after watching the Wizards score nine straight points to turn a six-point deficit into a three-point lead, you might expect to see history repeat itself. But the Hornets fought back and finished the way you do when you want to be a playoff team.
Down 111-109 with less than a minute to play, Jeremy Lamb (19 points off the bench), hit a 3-pointer to put the Hornets up for good. After that, Charlotte’s defense stopped Bradley Beal twice and Bobby Portis once in the final 50 seconds to seal the victory.
“It’s a huge game for us, everybody knows that,” Williams said. “We had some disappointments the other night. We came in and had a good practice yesterday and came in ready to get a win today, so give the glory to God.”
Next up for the Hornets is the second game of a back-to-back set in Milwaukee Saturday night.