MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—After starting the month 0-6, the New Orleans Hornets are starting to string together some wins, even if it’s against the league’s cellar-dwellers.
The victory came on the heels of Monday night’s 106-88 triumph over the Boston Celtics, who sit in the Eastern Conference basement. The wins are part of the Hornets winning three of their last four after starting March with six straight losses.
“It’s huge for us,” Paul said of the two victories. “We definitely needed some wins to give our team some confidence. There’s been a lot of bad plane rides back home with guys down. It feels good to have guys talking and laughing again.”
West connected on 10 of 15 shots from the floor, leading six Hornets in double figures. Tyson Chandler had 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting, 11 rebounds and three blocks, while Rasual Butler finished with 15 points, and Desmond Mason had 14.
“We had no answer for Chris Paul,” Memphis interim coach Tony Barone said. “And David West is an All-Star as far as I’m concerned.”
Pau Gasol led Memphis with 28 points and 10 rebounds and hit 11 of 14 shots. Mike Miller scored 13 points, all in the first quarter, while Rudy Gay, Dahntay Jones and Chucky Atkins scored 12 points each. Tarence Kinsey had 10.
New Orleans built the lead in the third period by connecting on 11 of 16 shots. The Hornets were shooting 62 percent from the field entering the final period and finished with a 60 percent night.
New Orleans extended the lead to 18 in the early minutes of the fourth quarter. The lead would eventually reach 20, and the Memphis reserves cut it to 110-101 in the closing minutes.
“We emphasized in the halftime speech that the offense wasn’t going to win it. We had to get some stops,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “I thought in the first half, the offense was clicking so well that we forgot that we had to guard these guys.”
Memphis, coming off a 104-103 win over Chicago on Saturday, failed again to win consecutive games and has lost nine of its last 11. The Grizzlies are the only team in the league to not have at least a two-game winning streak.
“It’s frustrating, but what can we do?” Gasol said. “We try hard to come out and put two games together, but a lot of things aren’t (going) our way.”
Both teams shot well in the first half and the score was knotted at 61 at the half. Memphis, led by Gasol’s 20 points and Miller’s 13, shot 63 percent in the half, while New Orleans connected on 59 percent. Gasol missed only one of his nine shots in the half.
New Orleans finally created some separation from the Grizzlies in the third period by hitting nine of their first 11 shots. When Butler made a 3-pointer with under a minute left in the quarter, the Hornets had the first double-digit lead of the game, and New Orleans led 92-81 heading into the final period.
“It was like a park league game out there in the first half,” Barone said. “Then they came out with a different resolve in the third quarter.
“… It was a lack of fundamentals. You can’t win games like that.”
Meanwhile, the Hornets remained in the hunt for the last playoff spot in the West, battling with the Clippers and Warriors. The Clippers’ victory over the Bulls on Tuesday night, coupled with the Warriors’ loss to the Jazz, left Golden State in a virtual tie with the Clippers. New Orleans trails the pair by a half-game.
The Hornets have three home games in the next week against teams ahead of them in the playoff race. But the trio of the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks will pose a little tougher competition than in the last two wins for New Orleans.
“We know it’s going to be tough,” West said. “We’re going to take each game at a time, and approach the game like we’re going out here looking for
Memphis starting G Damon Stoudamire was inactive for the game because of soreness in his right knee. Atkins started in his place. … Miller went out in the third period with a dislocated fingernail on his left hand. He returned later in the quarter. … Paul connected on all 11 of his free throws and is 39-of-41 from the line in his last seven games. …Chandler’s 16 points left him three shy of 3,000 for his career.