Hornets vs Thunder recap: PJ Washington goes off

PJ Washington scored 31 points as the Charlotte Hornets held to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 117-115. It was their first preseason win since 2021.

Washington got hot early, scoring 11 points in the opening frame with three made 3-pointers. The Hornets struggled a little bit with the Thunder’s back cutting and heavy off-ball movement offense, but it wasn’t so bad that the Hornets couldn’t stay step for step with the Thunder. They gradually built themselves a little stiff arm and went into the half up six.

Washington stayed hot with seven points early in the second half. The Hornets clamped the Thunder and built a comfortable double digit lead for the rest of the time that the starters were in the game. As the benches started to empty, the score got a little closer. The reserves tried to fumble the game away at the end like they did in the first two preseason contests, but they were just able to hold on as Jeremiah Robinson-Earl’s streaking layup fell off the rim at the buzzer.

The Good

PJ Washington looked like a star. We’ve seen him have plenty of flashes like this before, so we need to keep expectations tempered, but it was a very exciting performance. He’s shown a really good feel for how to use his body when driving to the basket, which we haven’t seen from him much in his career. He’s using his shoulder to bump people out of his way to finish at the rim. He also had a couple of pull-up jumpers from deep. The Hornets are very tough to beat when this version of PJ shows up.

Mark Williams was super active on both sides of the ball. He got to the line nine times, and the Hornets clearly like feeding him around the basket. He’s got great hands and is a huge target. He got more deflections than the one steal and one block would imply.

Brandon Miller looks comfortable. He didn’t put up big numbers, but he fit in seamlessly. He had a nice pull-up mid range jumper and this highlight layup.

His assist was a lob to Mark Williams in transition, and the turnover and foul problems that plagued him in the summer league seem to be completely gone.

Frank Ntilikina had a much better showing than in the first two games. More performances like this and he can form a formidable defensive bench with Nick Richards and JT Thor.

Terry Rozier had a kinda quiet 19 points. He was super efficient and played well within the offense. He and LaMelo Ball seem to have really good chemistry right now.

The Bad

I’m not sure why RJ Hunter is here. He checked in late in the game, and his only contributions were a couple of hastily launched threes that missed badly. He scored zero points and was -8 in six minutes of play. He has a plus-minus of -33 in 19 minutes of preseason action. He’s not the only problem when the reserves are struggling, but he stands out.

Edmond Sumner was decidedly less effective than Ntilikina in this game. He looked sped up and uncomfortable with the ball and only made two of his seven shot attempts.

Bryce McGowens twisted his ankle in the second quarter and did not return to the game. No word yet on the severity of the injury yet, but hopefully it’s not too serious.

What’s Next?

The Hornets have a few days off before their preseason finale against the Boston Celtics on Thursday night. After that, it’s time for the regular season, which tips off next week.

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