- By Jodie Valade Special to the AJC
Kent Bazemore’s parents made the drive all the way from Kelford, N.C., to Charlotte on Friday. It was about a four-hour trek to see their son play basketball as a way to celebrate the birthday of Bazemore’s father, Kenneth.
And after one half of play, even Bazemore had to admit this was not the kind of birthday gift he had planned to give Dad.
He had just three points on 1-for-2 shooting in 13 minutes of play.
So when the third quarter began, Bazemore brought a renewed intensity. He logged a steal after just one minute of play. He knocked in a driving layup two minutes later. About 40 seconds after that, he knocked in a 3-pointer.
“Just being a bit more aggressive,” Bazemore said. “It’s my dad’s birthday, so I had a little bit more motivation.”
In the third quarter, alone, he had 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting, including hitting all three 3-pointers he attempted.
In all, he knocked in 26 points on 9-of-16 shooting -- two points shy of his career high.
“He made a lot of plays and made some for his teammates,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He shot the ball well and when he is playing like that, it gives us a huge boost.”
Still, it wasn’t enough in the end as the Hornets rode the hot hand of Kemba Walker, who knocked in 10 fourth-quarter points, and the inside dominance of Dwight Howard, who contributed eight points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the final quarter.
Atlanta fought back from as many as 13 points down to hold a 99-96 lead with 7:16 remaining.
“It sucked for us to be down at half and work our way back, have Baze do what he does then have it all go down the toilet, down the drain,” Hawks center John Collins said. “Always tough to see that happen.”
But the Hawks wouldn’t have even been within striking distance if not for Bazemore.
“He has such a great spirit and great energy, I think everyone loves playing with him,” Budenholzer said. “He is a great teammate, so when you see somebody like him get going, it fuels everybody.”