When the season started, the Hornets were excited about playing all of their home games in New Orleans for the first time since Hurricane Katrina forced them to relocate to Oklahoma City for most of the last two seasons.
So far, however, it’s been a frustrating homecoming.
The Hornets look to end their struggles in New Orleans when they host the Southwest Division rival Memphis Grizzlies on Friday.
New Orleans (12-7) won nine of its first 11 games this season, including three wins in its first four games at New Orleans Arena. Since then, however, the Hornets are just 1-4 at home and 3-5 overall.
The Hornets have averaged just 87.8 points and shot just 39.8 percent from the field in their last four defeats at New Orleans Arena, where sparse attendance remains a persistent problem.
In front of an announced crowd of 10,312 on Wednesday, the Hornets shot just 34.7 percent and fell 91-76 to Detroit. They were outscored 75-50 in the final three quarters.
“(The Pistons) picked up their intensity and we never reacted the way that we should have reacted,” said Hornets coach Byron Scott, whose team has failed to emerge as one of the top teams in the competitive Western Conference despite owning one of the league’s best road records at 8-2.
“We did a poor job of really moving the ball. That was one thing that I was really disappointed in.”
New Orleans forward David West shot just 3-for-15 and scored nine points in the defeat, failing to reach double figures for the first time this season. He’s averaging only 10 points while shooting 7-for-29 in his last two games, but hopes to rebound against Memphis, which he torched for a career-high 40 points in a 120-118 overtime road victory on Nov. 16.
That was New Orleans’ seventh win in the last eight matchups between the teams.
While the Hornets are struggling at home, the Grizzlies (6-12) have lost seven of their last eight away from Memphis. They lost 105-92 at Houston on Wednesday to fall to 1-5 against division rivals.
“We have to keep pressing,” said Memphis swingman Mike Miller, who had 14 points and nine rebounds. “We are playing better but we have to get better defensively and play better together. We are encouraged and have to keep working hard.”
Pau Gasol had 23 points and 12 rebounds on Wednesday for his first 20-10 game of the season. The 7-foot Spaniard had 23 such performances in 2006-07, despite being limited to 59 games because of a foot injury.
Gasol, though, didn’t have much help on the Memphis frontline with Darko Milicic and Stromile Swift sidelined by a stomach virus and an ankle injury, respectively. Both players are uncertain for Friday.
“You have less margin for error when you are short-handed and you have to do all the little things - hustle, rebound and make shots,” Grizzlies coach Mark Iavaroni said.
Gasol had 20 points and eight rebounds in the loss to New Orleans earlier this season, and is averaging 21 points and 10.7 rebounds while shooting 55.8 percent from the field in his last seven games against the Hornets.