Unlike most teams, the New Orleans Hornets may not have been looking forward to this year’s All-Star break.
The Hornets, winners of five straight games before the break, are coming off a lopsided loss when they meet the Utah Jazz in the start of a home-and-home series.
The Hornets entered the break having won nine of their last 10 games to move six games over .500 after a dreadful 18-64 season a year ago.
But New Orleans’ winning ways ended in Tuesday’s 97-75 defeat to the Indiana Pacers.
“We weren’t ready to play, bottom line,” New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. “We can’t do that coming off the All-Star break. We have to be careful with other teams right behind us in our conference.”
The Hornets are seventh in the Western Conference, two games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers for the eighth and final playoff spot.
New Orleans played Indiana without leading scorer David West in the lineup. West, who is averaging 16.8 points, missed the game to be with his wife and newborn child.
Guard Chris Paul, a leading candidate Rookie of the Year honors, scored 27 points to lead the Hornets. He shot 8-for-15 from the field while his teammates were 17-for-59.
Paul didn’t appear limited by a shoulder injury which caused him to miss the last game before the All-Star break.
The Jazz are in ninth place in the West, two games behind the Lakers for that final playoff berth.
Utah saw its three-game home winning streak end with a 103-83 loss Tuesday to the Boston Celtics. The Jazz led 47-43 at the half, but got outscored 37-17 in the third quarter.
“They just waxed our ears back pretty good,” Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. “In the first half, we looked like we were pretty casual about it.”
Mehmet Okur and Palacio added 15 points apiece.
“I don’t know if we got tired or what. We just turned it off,” Utah rookie Deron Williams said. “We had a pretty substantial lead and just rotted away.”
The Jazz have dropped six of their last seven road games as they head to Oklahoma City. They have just one road win in five weeks, a 94-80 victory Feb. 10 against Minnesota.
Utah and New Orleans meet again Saturday in Salt Lake City.