Hornets 120, Wizards 98
NEW ORLEANS (AP)—The New Orleans Hornets seem to have shed a trend that plagued them earlier in the season: following up big victories with losses against weaker teams.
Jamal Mashburn scored 26 points while Baron Davis had 23 points and 13 assists, leading New Orleans over the Washington Wizards 120-98 Wednesday night in the Hornets’ highest-scoring game of the season.
The victory gave New Orleans a three-game winning streak and came one night after a 14-point triumph at East-leading Indiana.
“After the All-Star break, you’ve got to turn it up a notch and get ready for the playoffs,” Mashburn said. “That’s what good teams do. No matter who the opponent is, you can’t have any slippage.”
Darrell Armstrong added 18 points as New Orleans handed Washington its third straight loss.
The Hornets broke it open when they began the third quarter by shooting 12-for-16. They scored on 11 straight possessions during a 21-4 run, taking an 81-61 lead.
“We sustained our defense—limited them to one shot,” Davis said. “We forced them to shoot jumpers all night. … If our big guys continue to play like that on the defensive end, everything’s going to take care of itself.”
Juan Dixon scored 16 points to lead Washington but was held scoreless in the second half.
“You know, they’re playing for a whole lot more than we’re playing for, although I thought playing for pride may mean a lot more,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said.
“We’ve just got to find a way to pull together. Can this group do that? We’ll see,” Jordan said. “Do we have the character in that locker room? Do we have the veteran leadership in that locker room? Do the coaches have enough confidence to continue to put game plans together that we think that are good? Yes, we will and let’s see where the players go.”
The game was all but over when Mashburn, who was 11 of 17 from the floor, hit a 3-pointer with 5:50 left to give New Orleans its biggest lead at 106-80. After that, Hornets coach Tim Floyd went with an all-reserve lineup for the rest of the game.
Jamaal Magloire had 11 points and nine rebounds. David West had 11 points and 10 rebounds and reserve Steve Smith scored 14, hitting four 3s and ending the Hornets’ scoring with a crowd-pleasing pass to himself off the glass for a dunk.
The Hornets have played inconsistently this season but have yet to have their complete starting five healthy for one game. That could change if David Wesley (sprained left big toe) returns as expected next week, and general manager Bob Bass said he did not expect to make any personnel changes by Thursday afternoon’s trading deadline.
Hornets players indicated they weren’t expecting any changes, either.
“On the roll like we are right now, I’d be surprised,” Hornets forward P.J. Brown said. “This is what we envisioned at the beginning of the year when everyone was healthy.”
Armstrong scored eight points during that stint, including a 3 that gave the Hornets their first 20-point lead at 79-59.
Mashburn, guarded by Jerry Stackhouse, had eight points in the quarter, most on mid-range jumpers.
Davis was pushing the ball up the floor hard, setting up points with flashy, no-look passes in transition. He drove into the lane, then pulled up for an 15-foot fade at the buzzer to give New Orleans a 91-69 lead heading into the fourth.
“We were on the verge of breaking through it earlier tonight and that’s a good sign,” Stackhouse said. “But, unfortunately, we couldn’t sustain it for 40-plus minutes. It’s hard … when you’re playing against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.”
New Orleans shot 50 percent for the first half, led by Davis’ 17 points. Washington was able to stay close and led for much of the half because of strong start by Dixon, including a pair of 3-pointers.
The Wizards led 46-44 when Mashburn and Davis hit 3-pointers on consecutivepossessions to take a 50-46 lead, and New Orleans led 54-51 at halftime.
Washington is 5-22 on the road, the worst road record in the NBA. … New Orleans shot 55 percent from the field. … Dixon scored 13 of his points over the first 7:45 of the game. … Stackhouse had one of his worst performances since returning from surgery on his right knee seven games ago,scoring seven points. He is averaging 14.7 points per game.