OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) – Dwight Howard scored a season-high 29 points and the Charlotte Hornets won just their third road game of the season, derailing the red-hot Golden State Warriors 111-100 on Friday night.
Charlotte, beginning a four-game road trip, arrived with a 2-12 record away from home. But six Hornets players scored in double figures, led by Howard, who also had 12 rebounds and seven assists. Kemba Walker made just two of his first 12 shots, but warmed up to score 16 points.
On the night before the Warriors expect Stephen Curry to return from his sprained right ankle, they lost for just the second time in their past 15 games. They are 9-2 without Curry.
Kevin Durant led the Warriors with 27 points and Klay Thompson scored 24, 13 of them in the first quarter. Draymond Green had eight points, 11 rebounds and tied his career high with 16 assists.
The league’s best third-quarter team, Golden State trailed 79-75 after the Hornets outscored them 26-22 in the third. It didn’t get any better for the league’s defending champs.
Golden State got no closer than three points in the fourth quarter, and Charlotte’s lead reached 95-81 when Jeremy Lamb scored a layup off a feed from Howard to cap an 11-0 run with 6:30 left.
Durant gave the Oracle Arena crowd hope when he made a 3-point shot, then converted a four-point play in the span of 26 seconds, cutting the margin to 100-90. But Kemba Walker answered with a 3-pointer for the Hornets and Golden State’s rally was short-lived.
CURRY’S RETURN: Coach Steve Kerr stopped short of a definitive promise that two-time MVP Curry will return Saturday night against Memphis after missing 11 games with a right ankle sprain. “I would say most likely he’ll play,” Kerr said. “We had a talk with him and he was feeling good. So we’ll see how he’s feeling (Saturday) morning.”
Kerr said Curry likely will have a minutes limit, adding just his presence is a boost to the team.
“When he’s around, everybody feels better,” Kerr said. “It’s good to have him in the building, but it’s more fun to have him on the floor.”
What Curry might do in his return is anyone’s guess, Kerr said. “With Steph, nothing would shock me,” Kerr said.
Two seasons ago, after missing six of seven playoff games with a sprained knee, Curry returned in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against Portland to score 40 points, including 17 in overtime.
Hornets: Walker, who leads the team with a 21.6 scoring average, entered Friday’s game mired in a bit of a shoot slump. He made just 37.7 percent from the field the previous eight games, including 29.5 percent on 3-pointers. Acting coach Stephen Silas attributed that to wrist and shoulder injuries Walker has battled this month.
Warriors: Kerr seconded Green’s endorsement of Durant as a possible Defensive Player of the Year. “To be mentioned in that conversation is a huge testament to the work he’s put in and what he means to our team,” Kerr said. Durant, a four-time NBA scoring champ, has blocked at least two shots in 10 consecutive games . F Omri Casspi sat out two days after spraining his right ankle against Utah. “It’s not too bad. There’s not much swelling,” said Kerr, adding that Casspi could play Saturday against Memphis, but no later than Wednesday at Dallas.
Hornets: Visit Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.
Warriors: Host Memphis on Saturday.