Hornets 96, Hawks 77
ATLANTA (AP)—Byron Scott is accustomed to watching the New Orleans Hornets lose.
So, after his team finally held onto a late lead for a rare win, the third-year coach couldn’t believe the stat sheet.
“We had 21 turnovers tonight,” Scott said. “If we do that again on Friday, we’re going to definitely lose.”
New Orleans had dropped eight of nine and 19 of 23 before beating an Atlanta team that’s lost two straight, 10 of 11 and 14 of 16.
The Hornets kept their composure even without their three leading scorers, Chris Paul, Peja Stojakovic and David West, and top reserve Bobby Jackson. Scott challenged his players before tipoff to limit the number of easy shots Atlanta would take.
“That’s been our problem the last few games,” Butler said. “We’ve had great opportunities to win in the last 4 or 5 minutes of the game but we’ve made too many mistakes, and the other team has capitalized off those mistakes every time. That lets us know we’re playing good enough to win.”
Hawks coach Mike Woodson, in his third season with the team, is now 99 games under .500 at 49-148.
Joe Johnson was 6-for-24 from the field to finish with 13 points for Atlanta. Josh Childress, who took over at point guard after Speedy Claxton hurt his knee and missed the second half, had a team-high 19.
The Hawks played without reserve guard Tyronn Lue, their second-leading scorer, and forward Josh Smith, who’s fourth on the team in points and fifth in NBA shots blocked. Center Zaza Pachulia missed the second half with a left ankle injury.
Forward Marvin Williams, the No. 2 overall pick of 2005, played over 25 minutes despite a mild right ankle sprain. He was only 2-for-13 from the field and finished with seven points.
“I’m not going to sit here and make excuses for our team,” Woodson said. “We had no energy. Given that we played last night and they were off, I thought they set the tone from the beginning to end.”
Pargo’s straightaway 3-pointer with 2:24 remaining gave New Orleans its biggest lead at 96-69.
After going 5-5 on the road to start the season, the Hornets had lost seven straight away from New Orleans and Oklahoma City before Wednesday.
In a matchup of the third-worst teams in the Eastern and Western conferences, New Orleans never trailed after Pargo’s 27-footer made it 39-37 with 3:30 left in the second quarter.
The Hawks hit just four of 22 shots in the third quarter, and they scored on only two of their first five possessions of the fourth.
“It’s been tough for us, period, lately,” said Johnson, who began the game with a 25.2 scoring average that was tied for the NBA’s 10th-best. “We just haven’t been able to get it going lately. I just thought we didn’t have it in the second half.”
Butler has heard Scott’s message enough to know the Hornets couldn’t afford to let complacency set in as their lead grew. He knew the coach would want him to drive to the basket when a lane opened up, so he dribbled a few steps before pulling up and hitting a 12-foot runner over Johnson for an 81-65 lead with 6:54 remaining.
“It was a tough game,” Butler said. “It was back and forth early. We only had a five point lead at the half. Third quarter, still was kind of tight. But we got on a roll. Defensively, we got some stops when we needed to.”
Scott hopes that West (elbow) and Jackson (ribs) can return in two weeks. The New Orleans coach indicated Paul (ankle) might be sidelined for the rest of the month or maybe not until the Feb. 16-19 All-Star break. … Lue (groin) has missed 10 of the last 11 games. … The Hornets improved to 12-5 when scoring at least 92 points.