CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Eric Gordon made his return to the lineup Saturday night. And for the better part of 24 minutes, he looked as if he’d never been away.
Gordon had 24 points and seven assists, helping the New Orleans Hornets overcome a 21-point first-half deficit and extend the Charlotte Bobcats’ losing streak to 18 games with a 98-95 victory Saturday night.
The Bobcats are one game away from a winless December. They haven’t won since Nov. 24 and are closing in on their franchise-record 23-game losing streak to close the 2011-12 season.
Gordon, who hadn’t played since April 22 following arthroscopic right knee surgery, was 5 of 13 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line. He had two steals and two turnovers.
“I felt pretty good, I was kind of surprised,” Gordon said. “Now I’m just going to try to get better and better from here. I wouldn’t have had a chance to help this team earlier with my knee, but I’m glad everything is working out now.”
Ryan Anderson had 19 points and made a pair of 3-pointers in the final period as the Hornets won for the second time in three games.
Anderson was all smiles after the game.
“I haven’t had open looks like that in quite a while,” he said.
On a late possession, Gordon drove the lane drawing attention from defenders and passed the ball outside where Anderson knocked down a 3-pointer to push New Orleans’ lead to six.
Roger Mason, who had all 13 points in the second half, added another 3-pointer on the next possession because of the attention the Bobcats were paying to Gordon.
Anderson said those are the tough moments defenders will be forced to contend with when they face the Hornets the rest of the way.
“He’s a special player,” Anderson said of Gordon. “There are not a lot of guys like him in the NBA. He hasn’t quit warmed up to be 100 percent comfortable yet with this group on the court, but to come out and take over like that, that is the mark of a special player.”
Hornets coach Monty Williams said he didn’t expect that type of production from Gordon in his first game back.
“I certainly thought he would be able to help guys and make guys better,” Williams said. “But I didn’t think he’d score 24 points. His defense will get better the more he gets in shape.”
The Bobcats had two chances to tie the game after the Hornets threw the ball away with 11 seconds left, but Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions both missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 22 points and nine rebounds and Gerald Henderson added 19 points for the Bobcats.
Kidd-Gilchrist outplayed former Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis in the first half, scoring 18 points on 9 of 11 shooting.
“I had it going a little bit,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “That’s going against my best friend, so of course it’s special.”
But the No. 2 overall pick left the game near the end of the first half after scratching the cornea in his right eye while diving for a loose ball.
He returned in the third quarter wearing protective goggles, but wasn’t the same looking a little tentative and less aggressive. He had only four points in limited action in the second half.
“The thing with MKG that is incredible, and typical, is that he just played through it,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “He’s a competitor and he gave us what we had and that was just sure willpower. Pretty incredible.”
The Bobcats came in having lost 17 straight games, and the Hornets had lost 12 of their past 13 entering the game.
Charlotte jumped on the visitors early.
The Hornets led by as many as 21 in the second quarter before the Hornets stormed back to tie the game entering the final period behind nine third-quarter points from Greivis Vasquez and seven from Gordon.
New Orleans finally took the lead with 5:47 left when Anderson knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Hornets. Gordon followed with another 3-pointer on the next possession and they’d never give up the lead.
It was a dramatic shift of momentum after the Bobcats dominated the first half. Charlotte shot 64 percent from the field in the first half and took a 57-40 lead at the break, outscoring the Hornets 21-0 on fast breaks and 38-16 in the paint.
“We stopped being as aggressive in the second half as the first,” Kidd-Gilchrist said. “We weren’t attacking.”
As for the losing streak, Dunlap said “eventually we are our own solution. We can’t look external.”
THUNDER 124, ROCKETS 94
HOUSTON — Russell Westbrook scored 28 points and Kevin Durant added 26 as the Oklahoma City Thunder built a big lead in the second quarter and rolled.
Durant scored 11 points during a 16-0 run by the Thunder to end the first half and extend the lead to 18. Oklahoma City had another big run early in the third quarter to put the game further out of reach.
Former Thunder sixth man James Harden scored 25 for the Rockets, who went cold on offense for long stretches.
It was Oklahoma City’s second win this season over Houston, after taking the first meeting 120-98.
Kevin Martin, who came to Oklahoma City in the trade for Harden, finished 19 points and five 3-pointers. Westbrook had eight rebounds and eight assists.
Marcus Morris scored a career-high 24 points for Houston.
BUCKS 104, HEAT 85
MILWAUKEE — Brandon Jennings scored 25 points and Mike Dunleavy had 13 of his 18 in the fourth quarter as Milwaukee beat Miami to spoil Dwyane Wade’s return.
Wade was back after serving a one-game suspension for flailing his leg and making contact with guard Ramon Sessions’ groin during the Heat’s victory over Charlotte on Wednesday. Wade sat out Miami’s 109-99 loss to Detroit on Friday night, which snapped the Heat’s six-game winning streak.
Wade had 24 points on 10-of-19 shooting. LeBron James scored 26 as Miami failed to reach 100 points for just the third time in 28 games.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute scored 19 points for the Bucks, and Larry Sanders had 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
Dunleavy also had nine rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Bucks, who outscored Miami 35-14 in the fourth. The Heat (20-8) fell to 6-6 on the road.
NETS 103, CAVALIERS 100
NEW YORK — Brook Lopez scored a season-high 35 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Brooklyn improved to 2-0 under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo by beating Cleveland.
Lopez followed his 26-point, 11-rebound performance in a victory Friday over Charlotte by shooting 13 of 20 from the field, making a number of timely baskets in the fourth quarter that the Nets ultimately needed to hold on.
Deron Williams and Joe Johnson each scored 15 points for the Nets, who fired coach Avery Johnson on Thursday and followed with two victories over losing teams. But now, they head off for major tests at San Antonio and Oklahoma City.
CJ Miles scored 33 points and made eight 3-pointers for the Cavs, but Kyrie Irving capped a miserable shooting night when his tying 3-point attempt went in and out. He finished with 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
Tristan Thompson added 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who played without center Anderson Varejao because of a knee injury.
GRIZZLIES 81, NUGGETS 72
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Rudy Gay scored eight of his 19 points down the stretch to help Memphis beat Denver.
Gay’s rush was part of 10 straight points for the Grizzlies, breaking open a 68-all game with 4:45 left. His baseline jumper with 1:25 left gave Memphis a 10-point lead, helping the Grizzlies snap a two-game skid.
Zach Randolph had 12 points for Memphis, which won despite shooting 40 percent. The Grizzlies outscored the Nuggets 28-15 in the fourth quarter.
Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer and JaVale McGee all had 12 points for Denver, which had its two-game winning streak stopped. Danilo Gallinari, coming off a career-high 39 points Friday night against Dallas, was held to seven on 2-of-8 shooting.
HAWKS 109, PACERS 100
ATLANTA — Lou Williams had 21 points and a career-high 12 assists, Al Horford added 20 points and Atlanta beat Indiana for its fourth consecutive win.
David West scored a game-high 29 points for the Pacers, who had won four straight and seven of eight.
With Josh Smith, Atlanta’s leading scorer, unable to play because of a right hip flexor, Hawks coach Larry Drew started Zaza Pachulia, who responded with 17 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Indiana never got closer than three in the fourth quarter after Paul George’s three-point play made it 91-88 at the 5:18 mark.
RAPTORS 123, MAGIC 88
ORLANDO, Fla. — DeMar DeRozan scored 21 points and Jose Calderon added 15 points and 10 assists, helping Toronto to an easy victory over injury-depleted Orlando.
Rookie Ed Davis had 18 points and seven rebounds as Toronto won for the seventh time in eight games. The Raptors, who hit a season-high 15 3-pointers, got 16 points apiece from Kyle Lowry and Terrence Ross.
Rookie Andrew Nicholson led Orlando with a career-high 22 points. Arron Afflalo added 14 points and Ish Smith had 13 points and six assists.
The Raptors hit nine of their first 10 attempts from behind the 3-point line and built a 67-47 halftime lead. Orlando cut it to 76-65 with 5:16 left in the third quarter, but that was as close as the Magic would get the rest of the game.
The Magic played without starting point guard Jameer Nelson (hip) and his backup, E’Twaun Moore (elbow).
TIMBERWOLVES 111, SUNS 107
MINNEAPOLIS — Nikola Pekovic had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Kevin Love added 23 points and 18 boards to lift Minnesota over Phoenix.
Andrei Kirilenko had 20 points and five rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing guard Ricky Rubio because of back spasms.
Luis Scola had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who lost their fifth straight. They led 102-99 with 3:30 to play, but once again failed to close it out.
Pekovic scored two quick ones underneath, but the Suns still had a chance down three with 8.1 seconds left. Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass to seal it.
BULLS 87, WIZARDS 77
CHICAGO — Marco Belinelli came off the bench to score 17 points, leading Chicago to a victory over Washington.
Carlos Boozer added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, who snapped a two-game losing streak. Belinelli shot 7 of 16 in a reserve role as Richard Hamilton returned to the starting lineup. Hamilton had missed 12 games because of a torn plantar fascia in his left foot.
Chicago’s Luol Deng scored 11 points after injuring his right ankle Tuesday in a loss to Houston.
Bradley Beal led the NBA-worst Wizards (4-24) with 14 points. Emeka Okafor added 11 points and 18 rebounds for Washington, which has lost nine of 10.
Wizards leading scorer Jordan Crawford sat out because of a left ankle injury.
TRAIL BLAZERS 89, 76ERS 85
PORTLAND, Ore. — Nicolas Batum had 22 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Damian Lillard added 20 points and Portland beat Philadelphia for its eighth straight victory at home.
J.J. Hickson had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers. LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points.
Jrue Holiday had 29 points, nine assists and nine rebounds to lead the Sixers, who have lost eight of 10. Thaddeus Young added 17 points.
Portland opened the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run to take a 10-point advantage.