They shouldn’t need much momentum to handle the West’s second-worst club.
Coming off a thrilling last-second victory in northern California on Tuesday, the Hornets will look for their ninth straight win against the woeful Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night, though they’ll likely do so without star David West.
Few teams would be anxious to embark on a three-game West Coast road trip while they’re battling for playoff positioning, but Tuesday night New Orleans (46-27) began a trip that would make anyone envious. Sacramento, the Clippers and Golden State—the Hornets’ three opponents—were a combined 102 games below .500 when New Orleans arrived at Arco Arena.
The Kings, though, hung right with the Hornets, and after Beno Udrih put Sacramento up two with 1.7 seconds left, it looked like West’s career high-tying 40 points would be wasted.
Following a timeout, though, Butler nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the game to help New Orleans escape with a 111-110 victory.
“I expected to get a look, but I didn’t think it would be that good of a look,” Butler said. “We just stuck with it. We knew we’d have to withstand their runs and show some resilience. It’s important for our playoff position.”
The win, plus a loss by Utah, moved the Hornets into sixth place in the West.
Chris Paul has been outstanding as usual lately—he’s averaged 25.9 points in his last 11 games—but the Hornets are at their best when West is scoring. After the two-time All-Star’s 40-point effort on Tuesday, New Orleans improved to 11-1 if West scores 27 points or more.
West, though, hurt his ankle in the second quarter, and coach Byron Scott said it’s unlikely he’ll play against the Clippers (18-56).
Paul, meanwhile, had 15 assists against the Kings, and the Hornets are 11-2 when he finishes with at least that many.
West and Paul both hit those marks the first time New Orleans visited the Clippers. West had a game-high 27 points and Paul had 17 assists in a 99-87 win at Staples Center on Nov. 24, at the time the Hornets’ seventh straight against Los Angeles.
Butler, however, may be just as crucial to the team’s success as Paul and West. The Hornets are 24-5 when Butler scores at least 13 points, and he’s getting even more minutes with James Posey sidelined at least the next two games with a sprained left elbow.
Butler hit 6-of-10 3-pointers and finished with 27 points in the Hornets’ eighth consecutive win over the Clippers, a 107-80 blowout on Jan. 9.
Blowout losses are nothing new to Los Angeles. The Clippers’ five defeats on their recently completed six-game road trip were by an average of 17 points, which they fittingly concluded with a 110-93 loss at Houston on Saturday.
“We dug too deep of a hole to start off the game,” coach Mike Dunleavy said after watching his team fall behind by 13 after one quarter. “It’s been a rough road trip for us.”
Perhaps the lone bright spot lately for Los Angeles has been Mike Taylor. The little-used rookie guard has averaged 23.0 points on 65.9 percent shooting in his last three games, and he’s started the past two with Baron Davis sidelined with a strained calf.