By Matt Rochinski, hornets.com
Result: This was exactly the result the Charlotte Hornets had to be hoping for when they acquired eight-time NBA All-Star Dwight Howard this past offseason. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year also showcased his offensive game on Oct. 20 in Charlotte, scoring 20 points to go with 15 rebounds as the Hornets came away with a 109-91 victory in their 2017 Home Opener against Atlanta. Kemba Walker finished with a game-high 26 points and Frank Kaminsky chipped in 21 on the way to the win.
Turning Point: After seemingly sleepwalking through the first two-and-a-half quarters of basketball, the Hornets woke up midway through the third quarter led by the tandem of Dwight Howard and Kemba Walker. Trailing 69-60 with 6:32 remaining in the stanza, Walker and Howard both split a pair of free throws on ensuing possessions before Walker drove the right baseline and found Howard underneath for a rim-rattling, two-handed jam, bringing the crowd of 18,417 to its collective feet at Spectrum Center. Seconds later, Walker found Howard for another two-handed jam – this time with the assist coming from near the top of the arc – sparking a 6-0 Hornets run that would balloon into a 24-0 run near quarter’s end and put Charlotte comfortably out in front the rest of the way.
Hornets Player of the Game: Dwight Howard notched his second-straight double-double in a Charlotte uniform, tallying 20 points (on 8-of-12 shooting from the field) and 15 rebounds to go with one blocked shot in 33 minutes of action. It was Howard’s 668th career double-double, a category he leads all active players in. Additionally, with his seven field goals, Howard became the 15th active player with 6,000 career field goals made.
Hawks Player of the Game: Dennis Schroder put the Hawks on his back, totaling a team-high 25 points on 11-of-21 shooting from the field, and added five assists, three rebounds and a steal in the losing effort.
Game Notes: Kemba Walker knocked down his first three three-point field goals in the first half. Walker had 46 games of three or more three-point field goals in 2016-17 which was the most any Charlotte player has had since 2007-08 (J. Richardson – 48 such games)… Walker entered tonight just seven field goals behind Larry Johnson’s 2,858 field goals made for second on the Hornets franchise leaderboard for field goals made. Walker finished 6-of-13 from the field and now has 2857 makes all time… Hornets reserve Frank Kaminsky went 4-of-6 from the field including 2-of-2 from deep en route to a game-high 15 points in the first half and ended the game with 21 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Quote of the Night: “I hope it’s just the beginning. I think first you have to figure out what you have to do to play well. I think it’s obvious to me and obvious to them that when we defend and rebound with physicatliy that leads to good offense. And that’s what, to me, what this team is going to be. If we’re going to have a chance to be really good, it’s going to be defending, rebounding which will lead to good offense.” – Hornets Head Coach Steve Clifford
Next Up: The Hornets will tip off at 8 p.m. against the Bucks on Oct. 23 in the BMO Harris Bradley Center in Milwaukee. The game can be seen on FOX Sports Southeast or heard on WFNZ or on the official Charlotte Hornets mobile app.