CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nic Batum said it felt like old times having Coach Steve Clifford back on the bench Wednesday night.

“Even when we were up 25 points, he was still screaming at us, still wasn’t happy,” Batum said with a laugh. “He wasn’t happy after the game, either. I missed him a lot. It’s cool to have him back.”

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scored 21 points, Dwight Howard had another double-double and the Charlotte Hornets used a record-setting first half to beat the Washington Wizards 133-109 in Clifford’s first game since Dec. 1. Clifford, a Maine native, returned after missing 21 games because of headaches caused by sleep deprivation.

Clifford said it was great to be back and his focus is squarely on winning. The Hornets were 9-12 in Clifford’s absence.

“The newness or whatever excitement wears off because we need to win these games,” Clifford said. “I mean this is important, this stretch of home games. Physically, I feel really good – but we need to win, so that’s the best thing.”

RAPTORS 96, PISTONS 91: Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points and 16 rebounds, C.J. Miles scored 21 points and Toronto won at home.

Kyle Lowry scored 18 points and DeMar DeRozan had 17 to help the Raptors avoid their first three game losing streak of the season.

Toronto improved to 16-3 at home, the second-best record in the league behind San Antonio (19-2). The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games at Air Canada Centre since last January.

SPURS 100, NETS 95: LaMarcus Aldridge scored 34 points, Patty Mills made seven 3-pointers and San Antonio won at Brooklyn.

Mills finished with 25 points and combined with Aldridge on the most important play of the game, a three-point play for Aldridge with 53 seconds remaining after the Nets had cut a 17-point deficit to three.

All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard will be out indefinitely as he continues his recovery from a leg injury.

Leonard has played in just nine games after missing the beginning of the season because of right quadriceps tendinopathy. He also was sidelined briefly because of a shoulder injury.

“We didn’t feel he was ready. His confidence level wasn’t there,” Coach Gregg Popovich said.

HAWKS 94, PELICANS 93: Kent Bazemore hit a jumper with 2.1 seconds remaining and the Hawks rallied from 19 points down to beat New Orleans before a sparse crowd on an icy night in Atlanta.


ROCKETS: Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green will both be suspended for Houston’s next two games, with the NBA coming down hard on both for what the league said was their “hostile, verbal altercation” with several players in the Los Angeles Clippers’ locker room earlier this week.

All-Star guard James Harden returned to practice for the first time since he strained his left hamstring Dec. 31 against the Lakers and might play Thursday against Minnesota.