It would be easy to pin the New Orleans Hornets’ latest loss on the absence of the team’s star point guard. Coach Byron Scott, however, isn’t letting the rest of his club get off that easily.
Likely without Chris Paul for the second consecutive game, the Hornets look to bounce back from a poor defensive performance and snap a season-high four-game losing streak Friday night when they host the Toronto Raptors, who are dealing with injury problems of their own.
Paul missed his first game of the season Wednesday night because of a strained right groin. Without him, New Orleans (28-18) gave up 62 first-half points and allowed Chicago to shoot a season-high 56.2 percent from the field in a 107-93 home loss.
It was the fourth straight defeat for the Hornets, who blew a 17-point lead in a 97-89 loss to Portland on Monday after Paul’s departure from that game.
The Hornets haven’t had a longer losing streak since dropping six in a row from March 2-13, 2007. As much as they’ve struggled without their All-Star point guard, Scott isn’t using Paul’s absence as an excuse.
“Guys getting to the paint for layups and dunks - I don’t think that has a lot to do with Chris Paul,” said Scott, whose team was 1-1 without Paul last season. “It has more to do with us and toughness and pride more than anything. … It’s got to get to a point where you say, ‘Enough is enough.’ Then you start taking some pride on the defensive end.”
While the Hornets expect to be without Paul again Friday, the Raptors (19-32) could be similarly short-handed.
Toronto also played that game without point guard Jose Calderon, who sat out with a sore right hamstring - the same injury that kept him out of 10 games in January and two in November. Calderon is listed as probable.
Those injuries could help a New Orleans team trying to rebound from an unbalanced performance. David West, the Hornets’ other All-Star, had 24 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday, while Peja Stojakovic added 24 points and seven boards.
New Orleans, though, got only 13 points from the rest of its starting lineup and shot 36.3 percent overall - its fourth-lowest mark of the season.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys who need to step up,” Scott told the team’s official Web site. “… That’s putting pressure on those guys, but that’s their job.”
Antonio Daniels, Paul’s replacement in the starting lineup, is confident the Hornets can turn things around without their leader.
“We have enough in this locker room to get the job done. We just have to find a way to get it done,” said Daniels, who had six points and three assists in 25 minutes Wednesday. “A lot of us in this locker room, from myself, to Rasual (Butler), to Mo (Peterson), to Ryan Bowen, to Devin Brown, we’ve always heard, ‘You can’t.’
“We’re hearing the same thing now, that we can’t get the job done and we don’t have enough. I know for myself and other guys, that just serves as motivation for all of us.”
West had 29 points and nine rebounds to lead the Hornets to a 99-91 road win over the Raptors Dec. 14. Bosh and Calderon scored 25 and 22 points, respectively, and Jermaine O’Neal added 19 points and seven boards.
O’Neal had 22 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots in the Raptors’ fourth straight loss Wednesday.