Improving Hornets set to host Hawks

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Potential longtime rivals Trae Young and Kemba Walker meet on an NBA court for the first time Tuesday night when the Atlanta Hawks visit the Charlotte Hornets.

Both teams are coming off impressive wins, with their mighty-mite point guard leading the way.

Young, a 6-foot-2 rookie, had 24 points and a season-best 15 assists Saturday in a 123-118 win over Miami that snapped a four-game losing streak.

The former Oklahoma standout, acquired in a draft-day trade from Dallas for Luka Doncic, appears to be building up to something special, having averaged 20.7 points and 9.7 assists in his last three games after going 18.3 and 7.0, respectively, in his first six NBA games.

His shooting percentages also are on the rise, having gone from 39 percent overall and 30 percent on 3-pointers in his first six games to 53 and 39 percent, respectively, in his last three.

Young’s big game against Miami included a special moment when he assisted Vince Carter on a jumper that broke a 118-all tie. Carter was drafted into the NBA in June of 1998, three months before Young was born.

”Vince is the man,” Young gushed after the game. ”It was crazy, like a little throwback moment for me. From a few guys talking in here after the game, it was a throwback moment for everybody.”

Walker, who stands an inch shorter than Young, was also teaming up with one of the NBA’s old men in a winning effort Saturday night when he had 18 points and Tony Parker 12 in a 126-94 shellacking of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Unlike Young, Walker put up his biggest numbers right out of the chute this season, going for 31.7 points per game and 5.7 assists in Charlotte’s first seven games. He has averaged 19.3 and 6.0, respectively, in his last three outings.

The Hornets’ early success this season has been powered by an improved offense. The team has scored 103 or more points in all 10 games, 113 or more in each of the five wins.

“I really thought as we went through training camp that this team was built to have a good offense. How good, I didn’t quite know,” Hornets coach James Borrego said recently. “I think we’ve still got a ways to go, but we’re much further ahead than I expected.”

Walker (28.0) and Young (19.1) rank first and fourth, respectively, in scoring among players 6-2 or shorter.

Young already has had a matchup with another on the list — Memphis’ Mike Conley (19.3) — and the duel proved to be highly entertaining. Young had 20 points and nine assists in the Oct. 19 game, but the Grizzlies prevailed at home 131-117 thanks in large part to Conley’s 16 points and 11 assists.

The fourth member of the club — Houston’s Chris Paul (19.2) — put up 31 points the last time he saw Walker in a 108-96 Rockets home win last December.

Walker averaged 29.3 points when the Hornets went 4-0 against the Young-less Hawks last season. Charlotte averaged 120.5 points in the four wins.