New Orleans (28-15) at San Antonio (31-14)

Cloudy Currently: San Antonio, TX
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 8:30 pm EST Sat Jan 31, 2009
Preview | Box Score | Recap

David West’s return to the lineup wasn’t enough to lift the New Orleans Hornets past the NBA’s worst defensive team.

With a similar performance in San Antonio, the final score might not be so close.

The Hornets will try to rediscover their shooting touch while visiting the defensive-minded Spurs on Saturday, as the Southwest Division’s top two teams square off for the second time this season.

West, named to his second Western Conference All-Star team this week, had missed five games due to back spasms before Friday’s night home matchup with Golden State.

Four of the games West missed were at home and the Hornets (28-15) won all four - the last three by double digits. With West back in the lineup New Orleans didn’t figure to have much trouble with Golden State, which came in allowing a league-worst 111.8 points per game.

The Hornets led 27-19 after one quarter, but couldn’t find their offense the rest of the night. Chris Paul had 31 points and West added 12 points and 15 rebounds in his return, but New Orleans shot 29.8 percent in the final three quarters of a 91-87 loss.

It was the fewest points the Warriors had allowed all season.

“It looked like a bunch of guys were heavy-legged for whatever reason,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “We can’t just expect CP or David to get the job done themselves.”

San Antonio (31-14) has allowed 87 or fewer points 13 times, winning 12 of those contests.

The Spurs are 16-4 in their last 20 games overall, and with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all healthy they’ve grabbed a two-game division lead over New Orleans.

Duncan (20.6 ppg) and Parker (20.5) have carried San Antonio many times this season, and they came through again Thursday in Phoenix - Duncan with 20 points and 15 rebounds and Parker with 26 points.

It was Ginobili, though, who made the difference. He made all 18 of his free throws, setting a franchise record for foul shots in a game without a miss, and finished with 30 points as the Spurs beat Phoenix 114-104.

“It was a wonderful win for us on the road. All road wins are great,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “Tony Parker conducted a great game. His pace was great. Manu’s pace was better, nobody was in a hurry. … I thought Tony and Manu played a smart game.”

The win pushed San Antonio to 14-7 away from home - only the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando are better - and Popovich’s team will need to get used to the road. After the Hornets’ visit, the Spurs depart on a season-high eight-game trip.

They’ve also been outstanding at home since dropping their first three games of the season there. San Antonio is 12-2 in its last 14 games at the AT&T Center.

New Orleans should have an exceptionally tough time defending Duncan with center Tyson Chandler sidelined due to a sprained left ankle. Chandler had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks - bothering Duncan defensively - in the Hornets’ 90-83 home win over the Spurs on Dec. 17.

Third-year center Hilton Armstrong is averaging 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds while starting in Chandler’s place.

Including postseason, the Hornets are 1-10 in their last 11 trips to San Antonio.

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Saturday, Jan 31