The Hornets look to extend their season-high win streak to five Friday night when they host the Nets in a matchup of the only NBA teams to make coaching changes this season.
New Orleans (17-16) moved over .500 for the first time with a 97-92 win at Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Chris Paul(notes) had 14 points and 13 assists for the Hornets, who outscored the Thunder 18-11 in the fourth quarter.
“One thing about us is we have to give ourselves a chance. If we get to the fourth quarter and it’s close, then we sort of know what to do,” Paul said. “That’s all we’ve got to do is give ourselves a chance.”
The Hornets got off to a 3-6 start when general manager Jeff Bower took over as coach after firing Byron Scott on Nov. 12. New Orleans struggled initially under Bower while dealing with Paul’s absence for eight games due to a sprained ankle.
Things are going better now with Paul averaging 18.0 points and 10.0 assists during the four-game win streak, although Emeka Okafor’s(notes) ability to control the glass may be a bigger key. Okafor is averaging 11.5 rebounds in the last four games and has six blocks in the last two.
“We’ve been getting better with our fourth-quarter defense. We’ve been in so many close games that we’ve had to really defend if we’re going to be successful,” Bower said. “It’s getting better, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
The Hornets have the fifth-best home record in the NBA at 13-3 and will get a chance to extend the Nets’ road woes. New Jersey (3-32) is a league-worst 1-17 on the road, where it has lost five straight.
The Nets missed their first 11 shots and fell behind 32-15 after one quarter in a 119-89 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday to open a three-game trip. They have trailed after 12 minutes in each game of their road skid, giving up an average of 31.8 points in the opening period and losing by an average of 20.4.
“We came out and we missed a bunch of shots right at the rim,” coach Kiki Vandeweghe said. “We got anything we wanted and for some reason the basket had a lid on it. And that just gave them tons of confidence.”
Vandeweghe took over as coach Dec. 4 and led New Jersey to its first win after Lawrence Frank guided the club to the first 16 losses of an 0-18 start. The Nets, though, haven’t shown much improvement since.
“We came out with a better effort in the second quarter, but we just didn’t start the game off the way we needed to,” guard Devin Harris(notes) said about Wednesday’s loss. “They kind of jumped on us.”
The Hornets have won four straight over the Nets, with Paul averaging 23.8 points and 10.0 assists.