Jalen McDaniels scored 21 points in his second career start to lead the Charlotte Hornets to a 113-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
McDaniels also grabbed six rebounds and dished out three assists. Terry Rozier had 17 points, Miles Bridges had 16, Devonte’ Garaham had 15, and Cody Zeller had 14 rebounds.
Aleksej Pokusevski led the Thunder with 25 points, including a rookie-record seven 3-pointers. Theo Maledon had 25 points as well.
Charlotte’s 11-point victory came on the heels of its most lopsided loss of the season, a 116-86 thrashing at the hands of the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
The Hornets held the Thunder scoreless for nearly four minutes, jumping out to an 8-0 lead and briefly taking a 10-point lead in the first quarter. The Hornets were outscored 21-14 in the final 5:47 of the period, prompting Oklahoma City to call a timeout and regroup.
McDaniels’ emergence, after appearing in only 26 of Charlotte’s 50 games, was much needed as he steps in for the injured Gordon Hayward, who suffered a right foot sprain last Friday.
“Really proud of Jalen,” Charlotte coach James Borrego said. “To go from not playing basically all season to stepping into this moment right now, it just speaks to his character and his mindset. The staff, they kept him ready and now it’s just about building on this effort.”
The Thunder pulled ahead of the Hornets in the second quarter, thanks to Pokusevski’s career night from beyond the arc.
“He was a major problem tonight,” Borrego said of Pokusevski, who left the game in the fourth with a hip injury.
“When he’s making shots like that, it’s very difficult, because he’s got that high release, gets it off pretty quick. He can put it on the floor and move around in different schemes, so, a fantastic young player. He’s gonna be a handful for years to come.”
Oklahoma City’s difficult defensive night, particularly in the interior, resulted in Charlotte regaining control and taking a 56-51 lead into the half.
McDaniels, who made 6 of 9 shots from the field in the second half, helped the Hornets hold on to their lead and earn their third victory on the road in a six-game trip.
The Thunder have lost four straight games to begin April, but have shown more fight after losing back-to-back games by at least 24 points entering Wednesday night.
“After a tough stretch of games, we got back on track competitively,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I thought we really competed for 48 minutes, and I thought we really pulled together and played together. We tried to solve problems together. I just thought they were the better team.” –ESPN