PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; 76ers lead 2-1.
A hobbled Baron Davis and a New Orleans crowd that had never seen a playoff game got the Hornets back into this series.
The Hornets will need more of the same as they try to even their first-round matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.
In danger of going down 0-3, Davis and the Hornets responded with a 99-85 victory in Game 3 on Saturday in front of a standing-room-only sellout of 17,320.
It was the first postseason game in New Orleans. The Hornets relocated to the ‘Big Easy’ from Charlotte in the offseason, and the Jazz never made the playoffs during the franchise’s five years there.
“I simply cant say enough about the people in the stands,” Hornets coach Paul Silas said. “They were cheering us on. That’s what we have to have.”
The Hornets didn’t have Jamal Mashburn, their leading scorer and the team’s lone All-Star, as he sat out with a dislocated and chipped a bone in his right middle finger suffered during Wednesday’s 90-85 loss in Philadelphia.
His status for this game is uncertain.
Davis, wearing a thick blue sleeve over his strained and bruised left knee, had 28 points and eight assists to lead the Hornets.
The 6-foot-3 point guard had reaggravated the injury when he landed awkwardly after a layup in Game 1 in Philadelphia, then sat out Game 2.
“There’s still some things I can’t do, but I was making some quick moves,” Davis said. “If I can get out and play and be active like I was tonight then I’m happy.”
Silas let Davis play 40 minutes, about 10 more than he had planned.
“I’m sure he feels it a little bit … but he wanted to play because this was a do-or-die game for us and certainly he had to lead the charge,” Silas said after the Hornets improved to 12-9 in home playoff games.
The Hornets, who have never won a playoff series in which they’ve lost the first two games, outrebounded the Sixers 51-33, including 21 on the offensive end. Philadelphia had just six offensive boards.
“Hopefully we’ll be more focused on not allowing that to happen,” Sixers coach Larry Brown said.
The Sixers know they have to make rebounding their top priority if they want to go into Wednesday’s Game 5 matchup at the First Union Center with a 3-1 lead.
“Definitely, we can’t leave it all to the big men; the guards have to get rebounds, too. They need our help,” Snow said. “We’re a good rebounding team when our guards rebound.”
Allen Iverson led the Sixers with 28 points on 10-of-29 shooting, but Keith Van Horn, who averaged 15.9 points as the team’s second-leading scorer during the regular season, continues to struggle. He is shooting 33 percent (9-for-27) in the playoffs while averaging 13 points. He had only 12 on Saturday.
“After a game like this, you throw it away and try to get it out of your mind,” Iverson said. “You work on all the negative things and concentrate on the positive things and carry it on to the next game.”
This is the second playoff series between these teams. The Sixers beat the Hornets 3-1 in a first-round best-of-five matchup in 2000.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: 76ers - 48-34, 4th seed. Hornets - 47-35, 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: 76ers - Iverson, 37.3 ppg; Thomas, 7.3 rpg; Snow, 6.0 apg. Hornets - Mashburn, 21.0 ppg; P.J. Brown, 8.0 rpg; Davis, 7.0 apg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Hornets, 2-1. The teams split two meetings in Philadelphia, and the Hornets won 99-98 on Wesley’s buzzer-beater in the only meeting at New Orleans. Mashburn totaled 64 points in the Hornets’ two wins, but just 18 in their loss. Iverson averaged 32.3 points in the series.