MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—If they continue to share the scoring load like this, the New Orleans Hornets will be one of the NBA’s toughest teams to beat this year.
Their leading scorer on the season had only two points after halftime and their starting point guard was out injured, but the Hornets still handily defeated Minnesota to build on their best start in franchise history.
“Different night, different people stepping up,” Tyson Chandler said. “We’re just working out wins.”
A night after scoring a career-high 40 points against Memphis, David West was held to a mere 12 points on 6-for-12 shooting. Chris Paul, who had 28 points and 13 assists against the Grizzlies, was sidelined with a bum right ankle.
It was the perfect opportunity for the young and struggling Timberwolves to pick up win No. 2 against one of the league’s hottest teams in front of their home crowd.
Forget about it.
The Hornets found other ways to key their offense and extended their franchise-best start to 9-2.
Backup point guards Jannero Pargo and Bobby Jackson combined for 22 points and 12 assists. All five Hornets starters scored in double figures and accounted for 79 of New Orleans’ total points. Pargo, who started in place of Paul, finished with 15 points and seven assists.
“We played well as a unit,” Pargo said. “I just was happy to step in and help out.”
Chandler had 12 points for the Hornets, who showed a little lag in the first half after their dramatic win against the Grizzlies, but effectively put Minnesota away in the third quarter.
Even Melvin Ely, who entered the game averaging 1.9 points, got into the action. Ely scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
“We’re getting better and better and playing well right now,” coach Byron Scott said. But Scott also cautioned against reading too much into his team’s start.
“Our No. 1 long-term goal is to go to the playoffs. Unless we do that, this fast start doesn’t mean anything.”
The Wolves, meanwhile, looked flat a night after being outscored 22-6 in the final five minutes and losing to Washington.
“We have to look at each other, coaches as well as players, and ask ‘What do I have to do better in that situation,”’ coach Randy Wittman said, calling the game Minnesota’s most disappointing of the season. “We can’t let a lingering defeat like last night affect tonight.”
The Wolves stayed close through much of three quarters and trailed 56-54 at 5:17 of the third. But New Orleans used a balanced scoring attack to rip off a 20-7 run and Minnesota never seriously challenged again.
“In the third quarter we got down and we just put our heads down,” Telfair said. “We can’t do that.”
With Paul out, New Orleans couldn’t establish much of an offensive flow in the first half, other than Stojakovic’s 15 points and three 3-pointers. Luckily for the Hornets, the Wolves didn’t fare much better, giving up 10 points off nine turnovers in the first half.
Minnesota had 16 total turnovers while New Orleans committed only four—a team record.
In their nine wins, Stojakovic is averaging 16.2 points for the Hornets. He had 15 by halftime and sat out the entire fourth quarter. … Antoine Walker started in place of Theo Ratliff (knee) and had 10 points. After the game, Wittman was still awaiting word of Ratliff’s MRI results and was unsure of how much time the starting center would miss. … Stojakovic left for the locker room after the third quarter to stretch briefly before returning. … Scott said Paul would likely miss a couple more games before returning to the lineup.