OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—The New Orleans Hornets turned to their bench to put away the defending NBA champions in the fourth quarter.
Bobby Jackson, Rasual Butler and the Hornets’ reserves opened the final period with a 10-point run to back a 23-point performance from Peja Stojakovic in a 101-86 victory Tuesday night over the Miami Heat.
“As subs, we know what we’ve got to do when we step on that court. That’s to hold it down and make sure we play and don’t give up any leads and make sure they don’t get any leads. We do a great job of that,” Jackson said.
“Sometimes we may get careless, but the majority of times we’re going to come in and play our roles and make things happen.”
Jackson converted a three-point play off a floating finger roll down the left baseline to cap the spurt and give New Orleans an 85-71 lead.
Stojakovic, who won New Orleans’ last game with a last-second 3-pointer Saturday at Minnesota, stretched the lead to 15 with a 3-pointer near the top of the key. The Heat never got closer than 11 after that, and Miami coach Pat Riley pulled his starters with 3:17 left and the Hornets up 16.
“The bench was outstanding,” said Hornets guard Chris Paul, who had 11 points and 10 assists for his sixth double-double. “They came in and really pushed the lead out for us. That’s what we needed.”
The Hornets had six players in double figures: Desmond Mason had 17, Bobby Jackson scored 14, Marc Jackson added 12 in his first start of the season and Butler scored 10. Tyson Chandler added 18 rebounds, two off the Hornets’ franchise record.
“That’s what’s special about our team,” Paul said. “Some nights a guy may have 30 or 40, but we’re at our best when the scoring is balanced and everyone contributes.”
The Heat shot 19 percent in the fourth quarter in their first game since Shaquille O’Neal had surgery on his left knee. He’s expected to miss four to six weeks and wasn’t with the team for the trip to Oklahoma City.
“We know we’ve got to stick together, that’s the main thing,” Wade said. “We’ve been going through the ups, we’ve been through the downs. The one thing we didn’t do last year is we never pointed the finger at each other. We know how it works, but we’ve got to get it going. … We’re a couple men down, but we’ve got to always stick together.”
“He’s got to do a better job of getting off the ball quicker at times, and then other guys when he gets off it, they’ve got to do something with it,” Riley said of Wade. “We talk about it, we work on it in practice all the time, but tonight in the fourth quarter we were missing all our shots.”
New Orleans pulled ahead in the third quarter with a 16-6 run that started when Mason answered Wade’s cutting layup with a baseline drive for a three-point play. Stojakovic added a 3-pointer and a fast-break layup and Chandler had a steal for a fast-break layup before Cedric Simmons made it 70-61 by making one of two free throws.
Williams hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to lead the Heat back, and his fast-break basket on a goaltend by Simmons brought the Heat within 75-71 after three quarters.
But that’s when the Heat went cold, missing nine straight shots to open the fourth quarter as the Hornets gained some distance.
“I’m not sure we’re that good. We’re a pretty good basketball team, but we’ve still got a long ways to go. They’re missing a big, giant key to that team, that being Shaquille O’Neal,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “When he’s out, it changes the whole dynamic of their team and it puts a lot of pressure on Wade.
“I’m sure when Shaq gets back … they’ll start playing like the champions they are.”
New Orleans led 15-6 after an early nine-point run and trailed for only one possession in the first half despite shooting only 33 percent. They were up 47-46 at halftime.
Scott said he lingered after shootaround to meet with Riley. Scott was on Riley’s NBA championship teams with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1985, 1987 and 1988. “He’s somebody that’s going to always be big in my life, as a player and obviously as a coach,” Scott said. … Marc Jackson started in place of David West, who missed his fourth straight game with a strained right forearm. … The crowd of 19,329 was the second-largest ever for a Hornets game at the Ford Center.