NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Baron Davis has said he is healthier than he has been in two seasons.
“I feel strong again. It’s been a while,” said Davis, who missed more than 30 games last season with knee and back problems.
Davis missed his career-high in scoring by one point, scoring on floaters, dunks, finger rolls and quick shots off of screens. He was 6-for-7 from 3-point range, his last coming with 4:26 left and giving the Hornets a 91-87 lead.
“He got himself back in shape,” said P.J. Brown, who had 14 points for the Hornets, including a dunk set up by one of Davis’ seven assists. “He took a lot of heat last year because of his injuries but he’s back on a mission this year and he’s leading this team right now—in practice, in games—he’s just a determined individual right now.”
The Hornets have their first 3-0 start in franchise history, all without Jamal Mashburn, their best player last season. He has yet to play this season because of an injured right knee.
The victory also gave new Hornets coach Tim Floyd a 3-0 start. Floyd’s best winning streak in Chicago during three-plus losing seasons was three.
After the game, Hornets owner George Shinn walked into the locker room and predicted, “This is our year.”
“A lot of people are going to change their minds about Tim Floyd,” Shinn said. “And this is the team that’s going to do it for him.”
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 25, while Raef LaFrentz scored 17 coming off the bench. Vin Baker, who led the Celtics with 24 points and eight rebounds in a victory a night earlier in Memphis, could not sustain a strong start and finished with only eight points.
David Wesley scored 18 for New Orleans, including two 3-pointers as the Hornets hit 12 shots from long range.
“That was a good shooting exhibition by really their whole team, “ Boston coach Jim O’Brien said. “Even when we did challenge, they did not miss many shots.”
Davis had five steals and the Hornets scored 23 points off 17 Boston turnovers.
“We know we can create lot of turnovers and get a lot things off our fast break,” Davis said. “Offensively, we find ways to stay in games and let our defense win it for us. We all hit big threes at key points of the game.”
“We’re still a young team and we’re learning from our mistakes,” Pierce said. “We gave ourselves a chance and that’s all you can ask somebody after two nights on the road.”
Davis helped pull the Hornets back ahead with 11 third-quarter points, including consecutive baskets on a jumper and a two-handed reverse dunk to put the Hornets ahead 73-72.
The Hornets never trailed in the fourth quarter as Boston failed to score for the first 5:02. James, who finished with 12 points, broke the drought with a 3-pointer that made the score 86-82. Pierce got Boston as close as 88-87 when he scored as he was fouled and hit the free throw.
The opening quarter was a shooting exhibition, with New Orleans making 65 percent from the field and the Celtics 62 percent. The Hornets bore a strong resemblance to long-bombing Boston, hitting five 3-pointers in the period, including two each by Wesley and Davis. Boston hit three from long range, two of them by LaFrentz.
Davis was everywhere in the first half. He intercepted Pierce’s pass at midcourt and drove straight in for a soaring one-handed jam. He hit one end-to-end layup as he seemingly squirmed between three defenders in the paint, and finished several fast breaks and hit jumpers from the perimeter, scoring 19 in the half.
Davis also had five assists in the first two periods, finding Armstrong openfor a 3-pointer in the last second of the half.
Eric Williams, who left in the third quarter of the Celtics’ game Friday night with a hyperextended right knee, did not play. … The Celtics shot 40.7 percent. They had shot better than 45 percent in their first twogames, both victories. New Orleans shot 47.9 percent.