New Orleans (30-37) routed Boston 106-88 on Monday behind the team’s best shooting performance in more than a month. The Hornets went 40-for-76 from the field (52.6 percent)—their highest percentage since making a season-high 57.7 percent in a 100-93 win over Sacramento on Feb. 14.
“They looked focused more than anything. I didn’t sense any tension or anything like that,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “I just sensed a team that looked pretty focused from the start.”
The victory, which was also powered by 16 points and 11 rebounds from Tyson Chandler, was only the Hornets’ second in the last nine games. While New Orleans moved 1 1/2 games behind Golden State for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, Scott feels the team should focus on each game rather than qualifying for its first postseason appearance since 2004.
“I think that’s the problem. Everybody keeps talking about the playoffs and all this other stuff and the race,” Scott said. “Like I told them a couple of weeks ago, `We have no choice. We’re going to be in a race.’
“I think we’re thinking about it too much instead of just going out there and playing. Enjoy it. Have fun.”
Chris Paul, who had 15 points and six assists on Monday, appears to be doing just that with 17.4 points and 9.5 assists per game over the last 10. Last season’s NBA rookie of the year looks to continue his strong play against Memphis, against whom he has totaled 43 points and 35 assists in his last three games.
Paul, though, struggled in the last meeting, going 0-for-7 from the field and finishing with five points and 10 assists in New Orleans’ 108-104 loss at FedEx Forum on Feb. 13.
The Hornets had won five consecutive games against the Grizzlies prior to that defeat and hope the momentum gained from Monday’s victory can help them re-establish that success.
Memphis (17-50) is hoping to win consecutive games for the first time this season. They closed out 2005-06 with a five-game run en route to a 49-33 record and a spot in the playoffs.
This season has been a stark contrast to that one, with each of their wins being followed by losses with an average margin of defeat of 9.0 points.
“Finally, we won a close game,” said Grizzlies forward-center Pau Gasol, who had 21 points and 11 rebounds. “We’ve lost so many of them. I think we played good. We shouldn’t have gotten to that point of the game that they had a chance to win.”