The New Orleans Hornets haven’t missed a beat despite having two starters sidelined. That’s mostly because two other starters have stepped up their play.
With the returns of David West and Tyson Chandler questionable, Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic look to continue their success and lead the Hornets to their season high-tying fourth straight win Friday night when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves.
West, an All-Star forward and the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder, has missed the Hornets’ last two games with back spasms and remains day-to-day.
Chandler, the Hornets’ top rebounder and defensive anchor in the middle, started Monday’s game before leaving in the second quarter with a sprained ankle that kept him out Wednesday as well.
Despite losing two members of its starting frontcourt, New Orleans (26-13) topped Indiana 103-100 on Monday before defeating New Jersey 102-92 on Wednesday night to extend its win streak to three.
Paul scored 27 points and made the winning 3-pointer as time expired Monday, then had 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists Wednesday.
“The little fella is something special,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said of his 6-foot point guard.
Stojakovic has done his part as well. He scored a season-high 26 points with five 3-pointers against the Pacers before putting in 20 points with a season-best 10 rebounds versus the Nets. He adjusted his perimeter game to help make up for the team’s lack of size, and the Hornets outrebounded New Jersey 42-37.
“We talked about that the past couple days, that we all have to be aggressive on both ends of the floor and help each other,” Stojakovic said. “I think the way we scrambled on the defensive end, we played most of the minutes with a small lineup and had to gang-rebound.”
That approach worked Wednesday, and Paul seems confident it will continue to work if the Hornets are again without their best interior players Friday.
“It’s a great win for us. Guys had opportunities to step up and that’s what they did,” Paul said. “It’s going to be tough for us to keep this thing going, but as long as we played like we did tonight, we’re going to be fine.”
The Hornets, though, could be tested by a Timberwolves team that’s shown dramatic improvement over the last four weeks. After dropping 13 straight from Nov. 29-Dec. 23, Minnesota (13-27) has won nine of 13.
The Wolves, though, came up short in their last game. They cut a 14-point deficit to one late in the fourth quarter Tuesday before falling 112-107 at Utah.
“We just couldn’t score and we really didn’t get good looks after we got it to a one-point game,” coach Kevin McHale said. “We had an opportunity there and we just couldn’t capitalize.”
The loss overshadowed another strong game from third-year guard Randy Foye, who’s helped fuel Minnesota’s surge. He had 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting Tuesday, and is averaging 19.9 points and shooting 49.5 percent over his last 15 games.
The Wolves could use a similar performance from Foye against the Hornets, who have won seven of their last nine meetings with Minnesota, including five straight at the Target Center.