Coach Byron Scott feels the New Orleans Hornets may have overlooked a seemingly overmatched opponent in losing their last game. He hopes they avoid doing that again Monday when they visit the lowly New York Knicks.
The Hornets (39-19) are third in the Western Conference, two games behind co-leaders San Antonio and the Los Angeles Lakers. They lost ground Sunday with a listless effort in a 101-84 defeat Sunday to Washington while both the Spurs and Lakers posted victories.
The defeat, which came after wins over Phoenix and Utah, was New Orleans’ fourth in six games and the second to the injury-riddled Wizards in a six-day span as the Hornets were swept by the Wizards for the first time since 1989-90.
Scott felt a lack of respect contributed to the losses.
“That’s the problem, they think they can’t get beat by this team twice,” Scott said. “And that’s why we got our butts kicked both times. That’s to be just point-blank with your guys. I just don’t know if these guys respected them enough.”
Now, the Hornets will try not to do that again in the first of their two games with the Knicks (18-41), a team they have beaten three straight times at Madison Square Garden and five in a row overall.
New Orleans hopes to keep that string intact, but it could use a better shooting performance from Peja Stojakovic, one of the best shooters in the NBA. Stojakovic was 5 of 13 and finished with 17 points Sunday, giving him a 31.3 shooting percentage and an 11.8 scoring average in New Orleans’ last four losses.
He was much better in the two wins, going 14-for-28 from the floor to total 37 points.
Stojakovic is averaging 29.7 points in his last three games at New York, but missed both contests last season due to back surgery.
Chris Paul, who had 16 points and eight assists on Sunday, has been solid in two games at MSG, averaging 23.5 points and 10.5 assists. The guard leads the Hornets with 20.8 points per game and his 10.9 assists rank him second in the NBA to Steve Nash (11.5).
The Knicks, who are last in the Atlantic Division, are hoping to have Zach Randolph back after he sat out Saturday’s 118-92 loss at Orlando with a sore right foot. The forward, who suffered the injury when someone stepped on his foot during Friday’s 99-93 loss at Atlanta, tested the injury in pregame warmups.
He is expected to do that again Monday, and his potential absence could create a matchup problem against the Hornets’ David West, who averages 19.8 points and 9.1 rebounds.
Randolph is averaging 17.5 points and a team-leading 10.2 rebounds, but Jared Jeffries, who had three points and six rebounds Saturday, could get a second consecutive start if Randolph cannot play.
Randolph, though, has averaged 25.0 points and 11.0 rebounds his last four games against New Orleans.