The New Orleans Hornets traded their starting shooting guard earlier this week to give a couple of rookies more playing time. The first-year players gave management reason to believe that was a good move.
Marcus Thornton(notes) and Darrin Collison look to build on solid performances and help the Hornets win for the fourth time in five games Wednesday night against the Golden State Warriors, who expect to have Monta Ellis(notes) back in their lineup.
Brown had averaged 9.7 points in starting all but six games for the Hornets, but the trade helped the team nearly get under the NBA’s luxury tax threshold. New Orleans got rest of the way there after dealing reserve guard Bobby Brown(notes) to the Los Angeles Clippers for a conditional 2014 second-round draft pick Tuesday.
While the deals help the Hornets avoid the tax, it also opens the way for increased playing time for Thornton and Collison. Those two didn’t disappoint in Wednesday’s 98-97 win at Portland.
Thornton, making his first career start, scored 19 points on 8 of 12 shooting in 38 minutes. The rookie from LSU, originally a second-round pick by Miami, is averaging 13.1 points on 50.5 percent shooting in his last 10 games.
“He’s a guy with a lot of confidence that doesn’t back down, so he’s going to be just fine,” said David West(notes), who returned to the lineup Monday after sitting out Saturday’ 116-110 overtime loss at Denver with a sprained left ankle.
Collison, the 21st pick in the draft out of UCLA, finished with nine points Monday and helped key New Orleans’ late surge.
The Hornets outscored the Blazers 10-1 during the game’s final 3:06, and Chris Paul(notes) hit a 15-footer with 3.8 seconds remaining to lift the team to its third win in four games. The two-time All-Star has scored at least 20 points in four consecutive games.
While Paul had the game winner, Collison hit a 3-pointer with 2:42 left to bring the Hornets within two, then made a 15-foot jumper to tie it at 96 with 2 minutes remaining.
“Darren made a couple big plays,” New Orleans coach Jeff Bower said.
The Hornets have been sound defensively lately, limiting 11 of 15 opponents to less than 100 points, but they’ll likely receive quite a test if Ellis is able to play for the Warriors (13-30).
In their only meeting this season, Golden State used only seven players, but Ellis still nearly carried the team to victory, finishing with 35 points in a 108-102 loss in New Orleans on Dec. 23.
Ellis, the league’s sixth-leading scorer at 26.1 points per game, missed his second straight contest in Tuesday’s 99-96 loss to Sacramento after spraining his right ankle in Friday’s 111-79 win over New Jersey.
Although rookie Stephen Curry(notes) has been doing an excellent job of carrying the scoring load, averaging 28.0 points in the last three games, Golden State clearly has a more dynamic offense with Ellis on the court.
The Warriors, who shot a season-low 31.9 percent Tuesday, averaged 99.5 points in their last two games after averaging 114.3 points in their previous three.
Golden State also needs Corey Maggette(notes) to bounce back from a brutal shooting performance. The 6-foot-6 forward made just 3 of 22 shots, but finished with 19 points thanks to 13-of-16 shooting from the foul line. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds against the Hornets last month.