Stojakovic scored a career-high 42 points and directed a decisive fourth-quarter run as the Hornets beat the Charlotte Bobcats 94-85 on Tuesday night, breaking a three-game losing streak.
“I just came out aggressive, playing like every other game. I got going, so guys kept looking for me,” Stojakovic said. “I kept playing, I kept shooting the ball.
“I don’t know how to describe it,” said Stojakovic, who scored New Orleans’ first 20 points of the game. “When you’re a shooter, you just shoot it even when you’re missing—just trying to get yourself involved in the game, and when you make a couple in a row your teammates start looking to you.”
Stojakovic scored 22 points in the first quarter—a franchise record—and added 11 more during a 13-4 fourth-quarter surge.
“To me, Peja’s always hot. I don’t care if he’s missed 10 shots in a row, he’s still hot if you ask me,” said Hornets guard Chris Paul, who had seven of his 10 assists on baskets by Stojakovic. “That’s just the kind of player he is.”
New Orleans picked up Stojakovic in a sign-and-trade deal with Indiana in the offseason and gave him a contract worth about $64 million over five years. A three-time All-Star, Stojakovic entered the season as a 40 percent shooter from 3-point range.
“Whenever he misses, I usually say something to him because I don’t think he’s supposed to miss,” Paul said.
Emeka Okafor had 25 points, 16 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks to lead Charlotte. Adam Morrison, the No. 3 overall pick in the NBA draft, matched his career high with 21 points, and reserve Sean May scored 18.
The loss was the fourth straight for Charlotte.
“We’re hurting ourselves,” Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. “There is nothing wrong with the effort. It’s the turnovers. They have been at critical times and they’ve killed us. We have no value for the basketball.”
New Orleans’ Bobby Jackson added 14 points and Janerro Pargo scored 10— both off the bench—and Tyson Chandler had 11 of his 15 rebounds after halftime. The Hornets were playing their first game without David West (forearm), their second-leading scorer.
“We really needed somebody to step up and play some basketball with David West being out, and Peja stepped up big time tonight,” Hornets forward Desmond Mason said. “That was as wonderful a performance as I’ve ever seen in person. To have him step up and be a leader as a veteran, that was big time.”
After the Bobcats scored six straight points for a 60-59 lead midway through the third quarter, New Orleans came back with a 10-0 run that included three consecutive baskets by Stojakovic.
The Bobcats pushed back to tie it at 78 on Brevin Knight’s jumper from the top of the key with 5:24 remaining.
That’s when Stojakovic heated up again. He hit a jumper from the right block to put New Orleans back ahead, then answered Okafor’s right-hander with a 3-pointer from the left wing.
He followed that by stepping in front of Morrison for a steal and a right-handed dunk, then firing off a screen for a jumper that made it 87-82.
Rookie Cedric Simmons added two free throws, and Stojakovic grabbed an errant pass by Knight that caromed off the rim. He ended two more Charlotte possessions with defensive rebounds and passed his career high with two free throws with 42 seconds left.
“I don’t worry about individual stats,” Stojakovic said. “I want this team to be successful, everybody to be involved and accomplish our goals. That’s our team.”
Stojakovic hit his first seven shots, including four 3-pointers, and was 4-for-4 from the foul line in the first quarter. But he downplayed his hot start, noting that he scored 23 points in a quarter for Sacramento last November in a 118-117 victory against Phoenix.
“You can’t tell,” Stojakovic said. “Sometimes you have a great start and you don’t finish the game well.”
Chandler had to be helped off the court after getting elbowed by May on a rebound with 2:15 left. He sustained a mild concussion and did not travel with the team for Wednesday’s game at Detroit. … Oklahoma City businessman Clay Bennett, the new owner of the Seattle SuperSonics, watched the game from his courtside seat. … Okafor blocked shots by Mason on the Hornets’ first two possessions. … New Orleans led 55-52 at halftime.