NBA Basketball

Hornets' Howard motivated to play hometown Hawks

ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard helped beat his former team twice in Charlotte. Now the Hornets center gets a shot at the Hawks in his hometown of Atlanta.

Plenty of emotion should be on display Wednesday night as the Hornets and Hawks meet for the third of four games this season.

"I wanna kill them. I'll leave it right there," Howard said before the Hornets defeated the Hawks 121-110 on Friday in Charlotte.

Howard, dealt to the Hornets after one season with the Hawks in a failed homecoming, had 18 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots in that victory after 20 points and 15 rebounds in a 109-91 victory Oct. 20.

The 14-year veteran tried to backtrack from his pregame comment last week, saying afterward that it was taken "out of proportion."

"But it really doesn't matter," Howard said. "I'm always going to play basketball and enjoy myself. I have nothing but love for my city, Atlanta. I'm always true to Atlanta."

Howard can expect plenty of boos, though, in his first game with Southeast Division rival Charlotte at Philips Arena after last season didn't live up to expectations for the former All-Star or the Hawks.

Atlanta unloaded the remaining two years of Howard's contract on the Hornets while beginning a full rebuild. Charlotte has received more impact from the 6-foot-11 center than the Hawks did.

Howard has averaged 15.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.73 blocks for the Hornets.

Charlotte (20-29) has struggled as a team, though. The Hornets have lost twice on the road since Friday's victory over the Hawks and are a dismal 6-15 away from home.

The most recent loss was 105-96 to the Indiana Pacers on Monday despite 22 points and 11 rebounds from Howard, who posted his 697th career double-double. The Hawks (15-35) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 105-100 home victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday.

Guard Kent Bazemore scored 22 points and had the two key plays down the stretch against Minnesota with a 3-pointer and a chase-down blocked shot.

The victory followed a 129-104 home blowout on Saturday to a Washington Wizards team without All-Star guard John Wall.

Bazemore, averaging 12.8 points, scored three against Washington, shooting 1 of 9 from the floor.

"My effort last game was not where it needed to be, not anywhere close," Bazemore said after the win over Minnesota.

The game with Charlotte concludes a stretch of nine home dates in 10 games for the Hawks, who are 4-4 so far.

Atlanta is 11-15 at home but 4-20 on the road.

The victory over the Timberwolves was the Hawks' sixth straight at home against a Western Conference team.

"It'd be great to beat an Eastern Conference team, too. We play a lot more of them," said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, whose team is 6-24 against fellow East members.

The game in Atlanta is the third of a 10-game stretch for the Hornets in which they play only twice in Charlotte.

The Hornets are 14-14 at home, including the two victories over the Hawks.

The teams play their final game of the season March 15 in Atlanta.

Updated January 30, 2018

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