CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Hornets Coach Steve Clifford walked into his postgame press conference Saturday and smiled.

“We needed to win a game and we won a game, so that’s it,” he said. “That’s how I feel and I’m sticking with it.”

It didn’t matter to Clifford that his team nearly squandered a 22-point fourth-quarter lead to a struggling Phoenix Suns team playing without its leading scorer, Devin Booker, and without any player averaging in double figures. For Clifford, the end of a five-game losing streak was enough to put him in a good mood.

Dwight Howard had 30 points and 12 rebounds, and Nic Batum flirted with a triple-double as Charlotte held on to beat Phoenix, 122-115. Batum added 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, and Marvin Williams chipped in with 16 points as the Hornets wrapped up a three-game homestand.

“We had to grind it out,” Williams said.

The Hornets led by eight at halftime and seemed ready to put this one on cruise control after outscoring the Suns 35-21 in the third quarter behind 14 points from Batum.

After Charlotte entered the fourth quarter up by 22, Batum thought he was done playing.

“(The starters) had to come back out,” Batum said. “Give them credit – they didn’t give up. They came back. It was a tough game for us.”

Phoenix shot 9 of 15 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, including three each from Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, and two from Troy Daniels to climb back in with four minutes remaining.

But they couldn’t get the one 3-pointer they needed the most to fall.

Elfrid Payton’s potential go-ahead jumper with 1:45 left bounced off the front rim, and Batum buried his fourth 3-pointer with 51 seconds left at the other end to give Charlotte some breathing room.

Howard and Batum each added two clutch free throws down the stretch to secure the win for Charlotte (29-38).

HEAT 129, WIZARDS 102: James Johnson scored 20 points, Wayne Ellington added 17 and Miami ran away in the third quarter at home.

Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, Rodney McGruder and Kelly Olynyk all scored 13 for the Heat, who never trailed and outscored Washington 43-28 in the third.

That was Miami’s highest-scoring quarter in a regular-season contest since Oct. 30, 2013 – 394 games ago.


CLIPPERS: The team will return to Hawaii for training camp next season for the second straight year.

The team will travel to Honolulu in late September and hold camp at the University of Hawaii. Details and dates will be announced later.

BUCKS: Milwaukee requested waivers on forward Mirza Teletovic, who has been sidelined since December because of blockages in his lungs.

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