CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—With so many powerful teams in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Hornets get little attention.
After their fourth straight blowout win Friday night, it may be time to take notice.
Quietly coming into the game with the third-best record in the West, the Hornets quickly put away the sleepwalking Bobcats with alley-oop dunks, energized defense and balanced scoring.
Tyson Chandler had 17 points and 17 rebounds, and Chris Paul had 17 points and 11 assists for the Hornets, who made their fourth trip to Charlotte since bolting the city for New Orleans nearly six years ago.
And their current streak of four wins by 80 points is giving the Hornets hope they can contend in the difficult West.
“We can’t worry about who’s the hottest story,” Paul said. “The (Trail) Blazers are getting a lot of attention right now. We’ve just got to keep winning.”
The fourth-year Bobcats, who came into the season thinking they could reach the playoffs for the first time, were never in the game in their third straight loss and fell seven games under .500.
Jason Richardson scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half, Nazr Mohammed added 15 points and 14 rebounds and Gerald Wallace scored 14 points on 5-of-16 shooting for the Bobcats, who again appeared off kilter under first-year coach Sam Vincent.
“We’re not aggressive. We’re too laid back,” said Wallace, who played 47 minutes a night before Charlotte visits Orlando. “We’re not a good enough team to play like that.”
At times, the Bobcats didn’t even have a home-court advantage.
Paul, who grew up 80 miles away in Winston-Salem and starred at Wake Forest, secured almost 500 tickets for family, friends and college acquaintances.
With thousands of Wake Forest supporters in town for Saturday’s Meineke Bowl, Paul was perhaps the most popular guy in town. He was seen running through a hallway about 90 minutes before tipoff, late for a meeting with Wake Forest boosters.
About an hour before the game, Paul was in the locker room yelling into his cell phone, ‘The tickets will be at will call!’
The packed pregame schedule didn’t affect Paul or the Hornets early against Charlotte, which has been plagued by slow starts all season.
New Orleans scored on three alley-oop dunks in building a 23-10 lead, with Paul pushing the ball up the floor at every opportunity.
“We wanted to jump on them,” coach Byron Scott said. “We knew they hadn’t been playing particularly well and we’ve been playing pretty well.”
The Bobcats tied a season low with 14 first-quarter points and fell behind 53-31 when Paul blew past former college rival Raymond Felton for a three-point play with six seconds left in the first half.
Down by 19 at halftime, fans booed the Bobcats off the floor—minus the Connecticut football fans in town for the bowl game who were chanting for their team during the Hornets’ dominance.
“The urgency to start the quarter, to start the game, just isn’t there right now,” Vincent said.
Chandler kept the Bobcats at bay in the third quarter by scoring 10 points, including a thunderous dunk off a nifty feed from Paul.
After the Bobcats got within 11 with under 4 minutes left, West went to work inside for two buckets and two free throws to end the spurt.
It was just like how San Antonio, Dallas and Phoenix put away teams.
“Hopefully, sooner or later you start to get a little bit of notice,” Scott said. “We want to just keep playing the way we’re playing.”
About 100 current and former Hornets employees met Thursday night to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team being accepted into the NBA. Owner George Shinn, still despised here for moving the team in 2002, didn’t attend, but sent a video message. … Bobcats F Othella Harrington missed his fifth straight game with a sore left knee and told Vincent he’s still “a week or so away” from returning. … Bobcats F Sean May, progressing in his rehab following season-ending knee surgery, shot free throws on the court before the game.