There might not be a player in the league more excited about playing in Atlanta than Dwight Howard. The A-Town native doesn’t just come home to get his mother’s home cooking; he also comes back to Philips Arena to cook his former teammates like he did on Thursday night in the Hornets 129-117 victory. Howard finished the game with 33 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks, two steals and a careers worth of bragging rights.
Not only is Howard having a career resurgence this season -16.5 points, 12.1 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field- but he has proven the sceptics in Atlanta, namely the front office that traded him this past summer and fans who thought his absence was positive, that he has something to prove.
In four games this season the Hornets are 4-0 against the Atlanta Hawks. Howard is averaging a double-double against Atlanta. Coincidence, I think not. Payback. Oh most certainly.
Howard scored the Hornets’ first four points of the game and six of their first 13 points – as the Hornets went ahead by five points early. A 7-0 run to end the first quarter, capped by a Marvin Williams baseline dunk (it was like a Hawks reunion in Phillips Arena), gave the Hornets a 33-21 advantage.
Always good at home despite their now 15-22 record, the Hawks fought to tie the game late in the second quarter. At that point, the Hornets leading scorer, Kemba Walker, had only managed seven first half points.
With the score tied at 49 and a little over four minutes to play in the first half the Hornets pulled together another late quarter surge courtesy of a Walker jumper, a Marvin Williams drive plus free-throw and consecutive Howard baskets – one of which was a baseline jump shot. Howard also hit a long jumper in the first quarter that would have easily accounted for his longest shot ever at Philips Arena.
Either his game has expanded under Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, or his penchant for showing up the Hawks has no boundaries. Walker’s three-pointer at the buzzer put a cap on a 14-6 run that effectively put an end to the competitiveness of a game the Hawks never led in.
Howard isn’t the only Hornet who likes playing in Atlanta. Forward Nicolas Batum earned his a second triple-double at Philips Arena this season with a 10 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds line. Walker scored 24 points and dished eight assists and Williams finished with 17 points.
Second-year forward Taurean Prince led the Hawks is scoring with 22 points.
The Hornets, 30-39, will be in New York on Saturday, at Philadelphia on Monday and will close the road swing in Brooklyn on Tuesday. Charlotte is currently seven games behind Miami with 13 games to play.