Hornets Rally From 17 Down, Escape Phoenix with a Win
Monk’s 29 PTS Fuel Comeback, Charlotte Stays Undefeated When Leading After 3rd Quarter
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A second straight outing against a streaking Western Conference team ended in entirely different fashion for the Charlotte Hornets, as they squeaked out a nail-biting 124-121 road victory over the hometown Suns on Wednesday, Feb. 24 in Phoenix.
Reserve guard Malik Monk had another strong outing for the victors, putting up a team-high 29 points (20 in the second quarter) on 5-of-10 shooting from three, two rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of action. Monk’s second-quarter showing made him the second bench player in the NBA this season (Immanuel Quickley) and second Charlotte player since 1997 (Ben Gordon, Nov. 2012) to record a 20-point frame in a single game.
Charlotte fell behind by 17 in the second quarter before uncorking a 26-10 run to head into halftime trailing by just one. The Hornets then won the third by seven, took a 97-91 lead into the fourth and eventually went up by 11 with just under seven minutes remaining before Phoenix knotted the score with an 11-0 stretch of its own.
Highlighted by a pair of impressive drive-to-the-basket buckets by LaMelo Ball, the Hornets retaliated with a 12-5 run to take a seven-point lead with 34 seconds to go. Phoenix battled though, getting a huge four-point play from Devin Booker on the other end to get within one possession. After both sides exchanged free throws, Phoenix actually ended up with a chance to send the game to overtime in the closing seconds, but Booker’s catch-and-shoot three was well defended and came up empty.
“Obviously, it was a resilient win,” said Coach Borrego afterwards. “I’m really proud of our group overall. It didn’t look pretty early, but we’ve been a resilient group all year. We keep fighting. This has been a microcosm of our season. We look like we’re down, defeated, out and we keep finding a way to fight back and compete. This [Hornets] team competes as hard as any team in the league and tonight’s a great example against a fantastic Phoenix Suns team.”
Ball finished the night with 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, four rebounds, a team-high eight assists and two steals, while Gordon Hayward also had 20 points and eight rebounds. PJ Washington, Terry Rozier and Cody Zeller all scored 10 points each and Bismack Biyombo chipped in three points, a game-high 11 rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes off the bench.
Despite some second-half foul trouble, Booker finished with a game-high 33 points for a Phoenix squad that lost for just the third time in 15 outings. Chris Paul (20 points and 10 assists) and Deandre Ayton (16 points and 10 rebounds) both double-doubled for the Suns, who also got double-digit scoring performances from Cam Johnson (14), Jae Crowder (12) and Mikal Bridges (12).
Charlotte (13-of-36) and Phoenix (14-of-38) were both fairly level from behind the arc, although the latter went just 8-of-31 (26%) between the second and fourth quarters. The Hornets also won the rebounding battle by five (46-41) and went a crisp 25-of-27 from the charity stripe (93%), coming up a mere two makes shy of matching their season high.
The Hornets will now face the Golden State Warriors for the second time in under a week on Friday, Feb. 26 starting at 10 PM EST in San Francisco, CA. Catch the action on Fox Sports Southeast, the Fox Sports GO app and WFNZ 610 AM or 102.5 FM.