Washington scores career-high 43 as Hornets top Thunder
By CLIFF BRUNT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) P.J. Washington scored 22 of his career-high 43 points in the fourth quarter, and the Charlotte Hornets rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 137-134 on Tuesday night for their third straight win.
Washington made 8 of 11 field goals and 3 of 5 3-pointers in the final quarter to help the Hornets recover from an eight-point deficit early in the period.
“Credit to my teammates getting me in the right spots,” he said. “I was just trying to be aggressive with the shots that I did take."
Three Thunder players scored career highs - Isaiah Joe with 33 points and Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams with 31 each. But Williams and Giddey each missed one of two free throws in the final 16 seconds, and Williams missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
It was a potentially costly loss for Oklahoma City. The Thunder were looking to strengthen their position in the Western Conference play-in race despite being short-handed. Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the day fourth in the league averaging 31.3 points per game, sat out with a sprained left ankle.
“We have to buckle down and understand what we are playing for and what the stakes are at this end of the season,” said Giddey, who also had 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Charlotte was short-handed, too. Terry Rozier (right foot discomfort) and Kelly Oubre (strained right shoulder) sat out for the third straight game and Dennis Smith (sprained right toe) also did not play.
That didn't stop the Hornets from scoring 80 points after halftime.
“I was most disappointed in our defense, especially in the second half, really from the first five minutes all the way through,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We've got to look in the mirror on that.”
The Hornets were coming off two wins over the Dallas Mavericks, who also need victories to get into the Western Conference playoffs.
Joe hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the second quarter to give the Thunder a 68-57 lead. Oklahoma City took a 99-93 lead into the fourth, but the Hornets battled back. Former Thunder guard Theo Maledon scored, was fouled and made the free throw to put Charlotte ahead, 104-103, with just under 10 minutes to play.
Maledon hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left to give Charlotte a 123-110 lead. The Thunder responded with a 7-0 run, with six of the points coming from Lu Dort, to stay in the game. Oklahoma City tied the game at 129 on an acrobatic layup by Williams with just over two minutes to play, and it was close the rest of the way.
“Obviously, we had our moments tonight, but certainly didn’t string together enough in order to earn the win," Daigneault said.
Hornets: Maledon got his second start of the season. He finished with 19 points and nine assists. ... C Nick Richards had 14 points and 11 rebounds and F/C Kai Jones added 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Thunder: G Lindy Waters (left foot plantar fasciitis) sat out. ... Giddey scored 11 points in the first quarter. ... F Aleksej Pokusevski returned after a leg injury, playing for the Thunder for the first time since Dec. 27. He went scoreless in 10 minutes.
It was just the third time three Thunder players scored at least 30 points in a game. In 2012, it was Russell Westbrook (31), James Harden (30) and Kevin Durant (30). In 2015, it was Anthony Morrow (32), Westbrook (31) and Enes Kanter (30).
Hornets: Host the Chicago Bulls on Friday.
Thunder: Host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
Updated March 28, 2023