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Charlotte Hornets vs. Houston Rockets: Who won? The final result

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LaMelo of the Charlotte Hornets (1) is assisted off the court after being hit during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, January 18, 2023, in Houston.  Hornets won 122-117.  (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

LaMelo of the Charlotte Hornets (1) is assisted off the court after being hit during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, January 18, 2023, in Houston. Hornets won 122-117. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

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With both teams on board on a go-anywhere train along with a fast track to more ping-pong balls in the lottery drawing hopper, Wednesday night’s outing at the Toyota Center can be summed up in four words.

Victor Wimpanyama Powell.

That’s how it goes when the two worst teams in the NBA face off and only Houston have fewer wins than the struggling Charlotte Hornets before referee Shaun Wright tosses the first end into the air. It’s likely that The Rockets and Hornets thought this was their key place to stop their losing streak and put an end to their recent misery.

But nothing went according to plan for the Hornets and tonight was no different.

Despite escaping with 122-117 win over Over Houston, the Hornets lost again in the injury department. Already skinny with three key players on the bench in street clothes, things took another frustrating turn when LaMelo Paul left the game in the second half after spraining his left ankle.

The ball’s foot twisted awkwardly after PJ Washington’s right foot landed on it while the two were jumping on a play at the same time as Jabari Smith Jr. drove to the basket. The ball collapsed onto the field immediately and sat for the better part of the second half after being helped into the locker room.

“It feels a little better,” said Paul. “I don’t feel like those others. … I can walk, so take it day by day and see what it is.”

That’s about the only positive: It’s not the same ankle that Paul mishandled twice this season, sidelining him for 24 games. But that’s the last thing the Hornets need as they begin a four-game road trip that has upcoming stops in Atlanta, Utah and Phoenix.

“It definitely shrinks,” said coach Steve Clifford. “But I was proud of the guys and the way they hung together, fought hard and put in a bunch of plays out there in the fourth quarter to win.”

At least the ball didn’t need x-rays or any other tests to measure danger. The Hornets (12-34) can take some solace in that given how they’ve been plagued with injuries since training camp in September.

“Things like this happen, I think,” said Paul. “But you always have to look on the bright side. It could have been worse, so I guess I got lucky.”

And Saad Hornets stopped their losing streak in four consecutive matches.

“We definitely need this win,” said Paul. “It was a big win even though I fell down. His teammates stepped up so yeah, definitely proud of them and hopefully we can build on that.”

Here are some key takeaways from the Hornets’ sluggish victory:

Williams feast

Mark Williams is implementing Clifford’s decision to bring him back into the main rotation as a backup after going with Nick Richards for a few games.

The rookie was a powerhouse inside and enjoyed the Rockets, especially in the first half, tied his career high with 17 points. Terrorize Houston from within.

Williams threw a pair of nasty sinkers on back-to-back possessions and added two more for good measure, including a return. Three of those dives came in a period of 3 1/2 minutes. He finished a total of six rough edges on his way to scoring 17 points and six rebounds.

“Anytime you dunk the ball, it’s going to start,” said Williams. “They were finding me in good places, so I felt good about those early dunks.”

But it wasn’t a stern insult to Williams. He also helped set the tone with a career-best five blocks, providing an inside presence the Hornets often lack.

“I had an impact on both sides of the ball, I think I did a good job at that,” said Williams. “I think my teammates were finding me, especially when I was running on the floor. But on the defensive end, I think especially today, I could really protect the edge with blocks and change up shots. So I just try to do that.”

McGowans settles in

It’s becoming clear that Bryce McGowens is getting more comfortable.

McGowens steps in his shots with conviction and fires them without hesitation, unlike earlier in his rookie season when he seemed to think too much at times. With Gordon Hayward, Kelly Uber, and Cody Martin still nursing injuries, McGowens was held up for small forward and scored 21 minutes against Houston, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds. He was a member of the Game Close Unit.

“It really starts with the preparation part,” said McGuinns. “Starting with training every day, just stay focused and work hard on every little training, stay focused and everything will be good. I feel like that has turned into today’s game and if you play the right way, the basketball gods will be on your side. I feel like we played the right way Today.

“As I’ve been on the bench for the last few games, I’ve been watching the other players in our squad and how they get into their positions and the different things really translate.”

However, getting into a rhythm in a limited business is no easy feat, and Clifford knows it. But he was affected by McGuinn’s growth.

“Price’s strength is his offense,” said Clifford. “His instincts and his ability to play in the transition and on the court… He’s got a really good IQ. He’s got a good size. He crushes the G League. He just doesn’t play well. Of all the down guys, he was the one who if you watched him play, He’s been great. He has a bright, bright future. He works, learns fast.”

This story was originally published Jan 18, 2023 10:45 PM.

Roderick Boone joined The Observer in September 2021 to cover the Charlotte Hornets and the NBA. In more than two decades of writing about the world of sports, he has chronicled everything from high school rodeos to Major League Baseball no-hitters to the Super Bowl to the Finals. The Long Island native has deep roots in North Carolina and enjoys watching The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air endlessly.
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