The Sacramento Kings and New Orleans Hornets are each in position to make a push for the playoffs after the All-Star break. Both will try to gain momentum heading into the break when they meet Wednesday night on the Hornets’ home court in Oklahoma City.
While both clubs are below .500, they have played well recently and find themselves very much in the Western Conference playoff picture.
New Orleans (24-28), which is 8-3 in its last 11 games, is one game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. Sacramento (22-28), which had recently won five straight games before losing two in a row, is just one game further back.
Both teams will also try to bounce back from tough losses on Tuesday night.
“Any time you reach that point, you know where you are,” said Artest of scoring 39 for the second time this season, “but I wanted to come away with a victory. We didn’t get it.”
Artest, who averages 18.1 points, is scoring 22.3 over his last nine games and has been a big reason for Sacramento’s improvement. Kevin Martin added 21 points for the Kings, who fell to 0-5 in overtime games in 2006-07.
Meanwhile, the Hornets had their three-game winning streak snapped in a 108-104 loss at Memphis. The Grizzlies used a 7-0 run in the fourth quarter to get by the Hornets, who shot only 39.8 percent from the field and 59.3 percent (16-for-27) from the free-throw line.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m getting to the point where I’m not surprised when we don’t come out and play hard,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “I look at Phoenix and Dallas and those teams playing, and I don’t see them taking a night off, and they’re better.
“But our guys, for whatever reason, every three or four games, we’re going to take a night off.”
Chris Paul had 10 assists for the Hornets, but was 0-for-7 from the field and scored five points, well below his team-leading 17.8 average.
“It’s very disappointing,” Paul said. “We had a great opportunity to improve our winning streak. I don’t feel like we played at the level we’ve played the last few games.”
Chandler, in his first season with New Orleans after spending his first five with the Chicago Bulls, is averaging 13.2 points and 19.2 rebounds in his last four games. He also extended his streak of games with 12 or more rebounds to 11.
The teams have split two meetings this season, with each winning on the other’s home court.