NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Byron Scott tried to convince his players that games against struggling but talented young teams like Memphis scare him more than matchups with the NBA’s contenders.
“You’ve got to be a little scared of a team like this,” Scott insisted. “They have nothing to lose and come and out and play loose and we have to guard against a letdown as far as not respecting them.”
Apparently, the Hornets bought it.
Chris Paul had 21 points and 11 assists in only 30 minutes, and the New Orleans made 11 3-pointers in a 106-87 victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday night.
Peja Stojakovic hit five 3-pointers and finished with 20 points. The Hornets (11-6) have won six of their last seven games and 11 of their last 12 with Memphis.
“We knew how Memphis is a talented team. They’ve been playing some games well, some not,” Stojakovic said. “They just couldn’t finish because of their age probably and inexperience. But we played very aggressive from the very beginning. We just tried to put them away from the very beginning and play our game.”
“They came out and there were totally into what they were trying to do,” Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni said. “They are good. They’ve got a gold medalist (Paul) over there. They’ve got high goals.”
Rookie O.J. Mayo scored 18 points for Memphis (5-15), giving him double figures in points in his first 20 NBA games, the longest such streak since Larry Bird hit double-digits in his first 20 games with Boston in 1979-80.
Marc Gasol had 21 points for Memphis, which lost it’s seventh straight road game.
Mayo, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer with an average of 21.1 points, can tie Magic Johnson by scoring in double figures in his next game.
Johnson’s mark of double-digit scoring in his first 21 games was the most by rookie who started his pro career in the NBA. Dan Issel hit double digits in his first 27 NBA games in 1976-77 with the Denver Nuggets, but he began his pro career in the ABA.
Paul, meanwhile, has double-doubles in 14 of the Hornets’ first 17 games.
New Orleans shot 52 percent and outrebounded Memphis 41-32. The Hornets were 19-of-20 on free throws.
It all left Iavaroni a little exasperated.
“We needed energy on the floor, we needed toughness,” Iavaroni said. “We were not in the tough category. We were nowhere near it.”
Rudy Gay, who entered the game as Memphis second-leading scorer at 20.2 points per game, was 3-of-8 for only six points.
“Everything starts on the defensive end. We don’t run as much unless we get stops,” Paul said. “Tonight we did a great job of limiting O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay as much as possible. I don’t think they ever got in a rhythm.”
By contrast, the Hornets were in rhythm from the outset, shooting 86.7 percent in the opening quarter, including 4-of-5 on 3-pointers. Stojakovic hit twice from long range and had 11 points in the opening 12 minutes to help New Orleans take a 37-16 lead.
Late in the second quarter, Paul added a jump shot as he was fouled and a driving layup to put New Orleans ahead 58-39 at halftime. New Orleans pulled away even more in the third quarter, when Stojakovic hit three more 3-pointers. James Posey hit his second 3 of the game and the Hornets’ 10th as time expired in the period, giving New Orleans a 90-61 lead heading into the final quarter.
It was one of the more dominant performances of an impressive seven-game stretch for a Hornets squad that was disappointed with its 5-5 start to the regular season.
“We’re starting to push each other a little bit more and we’re starting to demand a bit more from each other,” Paul said. “We’re not settling for less and we’re not trying to wait until late in the season to start jelling. We’re trying to build our identity right now.”
Paul had three steals, giving him a steal in 101 straight games. Alvin Robertson holds the NBA record for consecutive games with a steal with 105, a streak that ended on Dec. 29, 1986. … Memphis is 1-10 on the road this season. … Stojakovic has scored 12 or more points in the last seven games. … New Orleans is 9-0 when scoring 100 or more points and 11-1 when leading after three quarters.