It’s hard to pull off an encore after a blowout road win over the reigning NBA champions. But if the streaking New Orleans Hornets can follow up their big victory, they’ll have their longest winning streak in nearly a decade.
The Western Conference-leading Hornets will look to win their ninth straight game on Monday when they host the Denver Nuggets, who are hoping to have Carmelo Anthony available after a three-game absence due to injury.
Owning the NBA’s longest active winning streak, New Orleans (31-12) has risen so quickly that it would be difficult to imagine a more impressive result than its thorough 102-78 rout of the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday.
It was just the latest chapter in what’s been a remarkable run for the Hornets, who are 16-2 since mid-December.
The Hornets last won nine in a row during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, when the team played in Charlotte.
“We feel like … going into every game we’re going to win,” point guard Chris Paul said. “We don’t feel like we’re the underdogs.”
They were on Saturday in San Antonio, but it didn’t matter much as they outscored the Spurs 60-35 in the second half and handed the defending champions their worst home loss since the 1996-97 season.
David West had 32 points, and Paul added 17 and 11 assists as New Orleans shot 54.3 percent. The win ended an eight-game losing streak to San Antonio.
“The whole thing about this team is ‘Oh, can they beat the big teams?’” said center Tyson Chandler, who had 12 rebounds. “We’ve shown we can beat all of these teams and we deserve some respect.”
During the winning streak, they’ve shot 51.1 percent, including 48.3 percent from 3-point range. The Hornets have also outrebounded opponents by nearly six boards per game, and Paul has averaged 12.0 assists, reaching double digits in each of the eight games.
Six of the eight wins have come at New Orleans Arena, where they had struggled to start the season, losing five of their first nine at home.
Paul had 45 points and 23 assists in two road games this season against the Nuggets (26-17), which the teams split. He had 30 points and 12 assists in the most recent meeting, but Anthony had 32 points as the Nuggets won 105-99 on Dec. 12
The Nuggets had won two straight and four of five before a 90-85 loss at Dallas on Sunday. It was their fifth consecutive road loss and third straight game they’ve played without Anthony—sidelined by a sprained ankle—though he shot before Sunday’s game and may return Monday.
“Knowing Melo, I think he’ll be ready, but I can’t guarantee it,” Denver coach George Karl said.
Still, the Nuggets are just 7-12 and allowing an average of 109.1 points on the road. They shot just 38.2 percent against the Mavericks, though Allen Iverson had 23 points and nine assists, and Anthony Carter scored 20 points, including 11 in a row in the fourth quarter as Denver attempted a comeback.
“Not many nights when you lose do you make positive steps, and I thought we made positive steps,” Karl said. “The Mavericks came at us, had a double-digit lead, we weren’t playing very well offensively. But we hung in there.”