ATLANTA (AP) — Kelly Oubre Jr. scored 24 points, Nick Richards added a career-high 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a reserve role, and the Charlotte Hornets coasted to a 126-109 victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday night.
The Hornets won decisively despite being without three projected leading scorers. LaMelo Ball has missed the first three games this season with a left ankle sprain. Terry Rozier couldn’t play after spraining his right ankle in the home-opening loss to New Orleans on Friday, and Miles Bridges has been sidelined since early July with three felony domestic violence charges.
Those absences had no effect on the Hornets as they went up by 15 early in the third on Gordon Hayward’s straightaway 3-pointer, and the Hawks never recovered. A 3 by Oubre pushed the lead to 18 points, and Richards fast-break layup put Charlotte up 98-78 in the closing minutes of the period.
Dennis Smith Jr., who started in Rozier’s spot, scored 18 points as the Hornets improved to 2-1 on the young season.
Trae Young finished with 28 points and Dejounte Murray had 19 for Atlanta, which dropped to 2-1. John Collins and Clint Capela each had 10 rebounds.
With the lead at 102-82, Young’s frustration showed as he drew a technical foul after arguing his blocked shot should’ve been goaltending. The Hawks trailed by 20 entering the fourth and never came close to single digits of the lead the rest of the way.
Young, last season’s leader in total points and total assists, had three fouls and sat out during a large portion of the second quarter as the Hornets outscored Atlanta 37-25 in the period.
Murray’s four-point play ended an 11-0 run for the game’s first double-digit lead at 15-5 midway through the first. The lead swelled to 13 before the Hornets went on a 22-6 run to go up 33-30 on Smith’s fast-break layup early in the second.
Charlotte took its first double-digit lead on Oubre’s jumper at the 1:24 mark of the second and led 59-55 at halftime.
Collins, who averaged 23.5 points in the first two games, was 0 for 4 from the field and had just four points in the first half. He finished with 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
It was the teams’ first meeting since Atlanta routed Charlotte 132-103 in a play-in game last April.
Hornets: F Cody Martin (left quadriceps soreness) was out. ... James Bouknight, the 11th overall draft pick of 2021, was a combined 0 for 10 from the field in the first two games. He came off the bench to hit a two 3s as Charlotte was making a run early in the second and had a team-high 10 points in the first half. ... Richards had a career high with nine field goals made.
Hawks: G Bogdan Bogdanovic missed his third straight game as he recovers from a right knee injury. There is no timetable for his return. ... Atlanta’s bench was outscored 30-9 in the first half and 52-28 in the game. ... The Hawks led for only 11 minutes in the first half.
Hornets: At New York on Wednesday.
Hawks: At Detroit on Wednesday.