CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kemba Walker scored 31 points and Dwight Howard added 24 after returning from a first-quarter back injury as the Charlotte Hornets knocked off the Chicago Bulls 118-103 on Tuesday night to win their season-best fifth game in a row.

Zach LaVine led seven Bulls players in double-digits with 21 points as Chicago (20-41) dropped its fifth consecutive game.

The Hornets improved to 28-33 as their suddenly hot shooting helped them continue their push to make the playoffs. In all, Charlotte sank 53.7 percent of its field-goal attempts, and 42.9 percent from 3-point range.

Walker hit 11-of-19 attempts — including 6-of-10 of 3-pointers — while Howard missed only two shots in 12 attempts. Nicolas Batum also added 10 points, 12 assist and seven rebounds.

Sparked by 16 third-quarter points from Howard, the Hornets hit 14-of-20 attempts (70 percent) in that period to take an 87-78 lead.

They came alive midway through the quarter, when a thundering Howard dunk was waived off, occurring after a foul, referees indicated. The crowd booed, and the Hornets were inspired. From there, Walker sank two 3s and Nicolas Batum had another in a 13-5 run that gave them a 71-63 advantage with 5:12 remaining in the third.

All that happened after the Hornets lost two players to injury: starting forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a strained left hamstring after six minutes of play in the first quarter, and backup center Cody Zeller experienced a sore left knee after 11 minutes of play in the first half. Neither player returned.

They nearly lost another, more important player, as well: Howard.

Howard suffered a back strain after playing 10 minutes in the first quarter. When he was removed from the game, he walked straight to the locker room.

He did not re-emerge until just before the second half tipped off.

But he quickly appeared to back to form as on the first play of the half, he blocked a shot attempt from Bulls guard Kris Dunn. The second time Howard touched the ball, one play later, was on an ally-oop dunk from Walker.

Howard ended up playing 28 minutes.


Bulls: Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez were healthy scratches Tuesday. . Cristiano Felicio equaled his season-high of 12 points by halftime. He did not score in the second half. … Chicago already has exceeded the team’s previous record for most 3-pointers in a single season (651, set in 2015-16). The Bulls had 657 3-pointers entering Tuesday’s game.

Hornets: Howard earned his 13th technical foul of the season in the third quarter. . With his first rebound against the Bulls, Howard moved into sole possession of 17th all-time in the NBA in rebounds. . In their four-game winning streak entering Tuesday’s game, Charlotte connected on 45.6 percent of its 3-pointers. … Walker has made multiple 3-pointers in 44 of 58 games he has appeared in this season. His 169 made 3-pointers this season ranks fifth in the NBA.


Bulls: Host Dallas on Friday.

Hornets: Play at Boston on Wednesday to start a three-game road trip.

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