If anything, they sounded like they expect more.
Chris Paul had 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Hornets to a 107-92 win, giving the team its 18th victory on the season and sixth in the past eight games.
David West added 22 points and 11 rebounds to help the Hornets improve to 3-1 in two seasons against Charlotte, where they played from 1988-2002 before moving to New Orleans.
“In November I knew we were a different team (than last year), and I knew we’d get more wins than that,” said New Orleans’ P.J. Brown, who had 12 points and is the only Hornets player who was with the franchise in its final season in Charlotte. “I’m expecting a lot more and hopefully my teammates are feeling the same way.”
The Hornets took control with a dominating second quarter, building a 21-point halftime lead and maintaining a double-digit margin throughout the second half. And they showed stretches of improved defense that coach Byron Scott has been looking for, holding Charlotte to 38 percent shooting and forcing 17 turnovers.
“It’s starting to get better,” Scott said. “We still had some lapses in the second half. That’s the problem with our young guys. We get a little comfortable when we have a nice little lead.”
On Monday, at least, it appeared they had good reason to feel that way. The injury-plagued Bobcats were without five players—including last year’s rookie of the year Emeka Okafor—and posed little threat after tying the game late in the first quarter.
“We can sum it up real easy,” Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “The coaches were bad, the players were bad. It’s just that simple. There’s nothing we could have done. It was one of those days where we kind of fumigated the place.”
The Bobcats got no closer than 15 points after the break, giving New Orleans its first win in the new arena that Hornets officials had lobbied for unsuccessfully before leaving town in a bitter split.
Now the team is focusing on Wednesday’s home game against Memphis in a Southwest Division matchup that could put the Hornets at .500.
New Orleans outscored Charlotte 41-20 in the second, hitting 12 of 19 shots while holding the Bobcats to five field goals and nine turnovers. Speedy Claxton had 10 of his 15 points in the quarter while Paul—who was an all-American point guard at Wake Forest before leaving school after two seasons to enter the draft—had an easy day in his return to North Carolina.
The fourth overall pick in June’s draft finished 6-for-12 from the field and 12-for-12 from the free-throw line in 34 minutes. Paul, who grew up near Winston-Salem, also had a personal cheering section of about 500 family and friends.
Paul’s fellow rookie point guard and former ACC rival Raymond Felton, the fifth overall pick, had 16 points but committed a Bobcats’ franchise-record eight turnovers.
“It gives the team a lot of momentum,” Paul said of the win. “Guys are just playing with confidence day in and day out.”
The lethargic home crowd of 15,303 got its biggest charge when receivers Ricky Proehl and Keary Colbert of the Carolina Panthers appeared on the scoreboard in the first half. The Panthers beat Chicago on Sunday to reach the NFC finals for the second time in three seasons. … Scott had a lighthearted exchange with some Bobcats fans behind the scorer’s table during the first half after they mocked the hitch in Desmond Mason’s free-throw shooting. “If it goes in, it doesn’t matter,” Scott said as Mason hit both for a 49-36 second-quarter lead. … Charlotte was also without Kareem Rush (sprained finger) and first-round draft pick Sean May (right knee soreness), while both Melvin Ely and Jake Voskuhl sat out with ankle sprains. …