The New Orleans Hornets have already made March look as if it will be one of their most successful months of the season.
The Hornets try to remain unbeaten this month and record a season-high third straight win when they meet the Toronto Raptors.
New Orleans started each month of this season with losing streaks of at least three games until winning the first two games of March to start a five-game homestand. The Hornets have won two in a row for the fourth time in 2004-05.
Chris Andersen led a strong effort by the Hornets’ reserves with 12 points and 11 rebounds in a 92-85 win over Utah on Friday. New Orleans got 36 points from its bench as the Hornets ended the Jazz’s three-game winning streak.
Andersen believes New Orleans is ready for a run of its own.
“We should go on a nice little streak here,” Andersen said. “We need to take a stand for ourselves.”
The Hornets prevailed despite a four-point outing from Dan Dickau, who had a streak of 21 straight games in double digits snapped. Dickau had averaged 17.7 points over his last seven contests.
J.R. Smith, the Western Conference rookie of the month for February, is averaging 16.6 points over his last 11 games for New Orleans. Smith’s 8.2 points per game tops all West rookies.
The Hornets are 5-17 against Eastern Conference foes.
Toronto fell to 0-2 on a four-game road trip with an 86-75 loss at Memphis on Friday. The Raptors took a four-point lead into the fourth quarter, but managed only eight points in the final period—a season low for any quarter.
“Playing on the road is a different style so you have to be aggressive,” Toronto guard Jalen Rose said. “We couldn’t do that and that’s why we only scored eight points in the last quarter.”
The Raptors failed to reach 90 points in dropping back-to-back contests after five straight games of scoring at least 100.
The lack of offense is a mystery to coach Sam Mitchell, who proclaimed before the season that he wanted his team to play an uptempo style featuring at least 100 shot attempts per game. Toronto took 70 shots Friday.
“We have to get back to running,” Mitchell said. “This is the second game in a row with less than 70 shots. I am befuddled to why we are not running more.”
The Raptors are 2-11 on the road against Western Conference opponents.
STANDINGS (through March 4): Raptors - 4th place (tied), 6 1/2 GB, Atlantic Division. Hornets - 5th place, 32 GB, Southwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Raptors - Rose, 17.1 ppg; Bosh, 8.4 rpg; Alston, 6.8 apg. Hornets - Nailon, 15.2 ppg; Brown, 9.0 rpg; Speedy Claxton, 6.2 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Raptors, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Jan. 16; Raptors, 102-99. At Toronto, Bosh had 24 points and 10 rebounds, and blocked a pair of shots by Nailon down the stretch. Nailon scored a career-high 32 points.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Raptors - 6-23 on the road; Hornets - 10-18 at home.