Having their two best players has helped the New Orleans Hornets play some of their best basketball to date.
Paul had 23 points and 11 assists while West added 22 points in Saturday’s 114-99 victory, keyed by a 17-3 third-quarter spurt. Since Paul and West returned to the team after being out with injuries, the Hornets (24-27) have averaged 112.3 points—far better than their league-worst average of 92.0 points.
“I think that’s been one of the things that we’ve struggled with, not just this year but last year as well. We come out with a lead in the third, and then let a team back into it and make a game of it,” said West, who missed 30 games due to elbow surgery. “We just wanted to come out with a lot of energy, and we did it.”
Paul, the team’s leader in scoring (18.2 ppg) and assists (8.1 apg), missed 17 games with a sprained right ankle and is averaging 17.3 points and 9.3 assists during the winning streak, while West is scoring 20.0 points per game.
New Orleans also has done a better job on the boards, outrebounding opponents in each of the last six games, including a 47-33 edge Saturday.
“We are holding our opponent’s field goal percentage to the low 40s, and rebounding,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “Those two things go hand-in-hand. If we do those two things then we have a chance to win basketball games.”
New Orleans can match a season high with its fourth straight win, established Nov. 1-7 and equaled Nov. 14-21 as part of an 8-3 start. After losing 19 of their previous 23 games, the Hornets have gone 12-5 to get within three games of .500.
The Hornets hope they can build on the strong performances in the third of four season meetings with Memphis (13-39), which has the worst record in the West and lost five of its last six games.
Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds Saturday, was disappointed by his team’s defensive play.
“We have to do a better job and be more physical,” said Gasol, who is averaging a team-high 20.6 points. “It was just a layup drill for them. We just have to be tougher.
“We always have a much better chance to win at home with a young team so we’ll look forward to getting back.”
The Grizzlies are 10-17 at FedEx Forum compared to a league-worst 3-22 on the road. They are scoring 106.0 points per game at home, but allowing opponents to score 106.8.
Memphis is trying to win consecutive home games for just the third time this season but has lost six of its last nine at the FedEx Forum.
The teams face each other for the last time this season on March 20 at FedEx Forum.