After surviving a tense finish against one of the Western Conference’s worst teams, the New Orleans Hornets are hoping to make things easier on themselves when they face another.
The Hornets look to notch an eighth straight home win over the lowly Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night.
New Orleans (42-25) opened this five-game homestand Monday with a costly 95-84 loss to Houston. The Hornets had their five-game home winning streak snapped and missed a chance to pass the Rockets in the conference standings.
They appeared headed for a third straight loss overall Wednesday against Minnesota, trailing by four with 2:39 left. However, Chris Paul set up David West for a dunk with 12.6 seconds left and New Orleans survived to win 94-93 when the Timberwolves’ Randy Foye missed a jumper at the buzzer.
“When it gets to those types of situations, D-West is a guy just like myself, we want the ball,” Paul said. “We know the team is counting on us.”
West and Paul combined for the Hornets’ last 14 points. West shot 3-of-13 overall, but scored nine of his 14 points in the last 3:24.
“I just keep trucking. I always think the next one’s going in. That’s just kind of the way I’m built,” West said. “I just wanted to finish the game strong, win or lose.”
The Hornets definitely like their chances of beating Memphis (17-50) with West and Paul available. Both players helped New Orleans win the first two matchups with the Grizzlies this season, but missed an 85-80 road loss Feb. 9 with Paul nursing a groin injury and West suspended by the league.
New Orleans has won seven in a row over Memphis with its two All-Stars in the lineup. West is averaging 26.1 points on 57.9 percent shooting in those games while Paul is averaging 25.0 points - including two efforts of at least 40 - and 10.9 assists in that span.
Hornets swingman Peja Stojakovic, who has missed eight straight games with a sore back, is expected to return soon. Julian Wright has started in his place, but hasn’t reached double figures in five straight games while Stojakovic, though enduring one of his worst seasons, averages 13.8 points.
Memphis has lost 14 of its last 16 and showed its inexperience in a 111-109 defeat to Denver on Wednesday. The Grizzlies, who start three rookies, led 91-81 after three quarters before faltering.
“We let them get back in the game,” said forward Rudy Gay, who scored 30 points. “If we would have executed right, and did everything and played good defense, we wouldn’t be in that position.”
Youth has been apparent recently in the play of rookie O.J. Mayo, who has slowed down to average 16.4 points on 40.3 percent shooting in 15 games since the All-Star break. Mayo was the Grizzlies’ leading scorer before the break at 19.3 points per game on 44.2 percent shooting.
“It’s not high expectations you know,” Mayo said. “The city understands we’re a young team, we’re still trying to get better. The city enjoys our young team and enjoys our talent, looks forward to watching us grow as a team and get better throughout the years.”