NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Jeff Bower calmly walked off the court and quickly into the tunnel, doing little to attract attention to himself after his first win as an NBA coach.
When he first took over for the fired Byron Scott on Thursday, he said the change was about a New Orleans Hornets team he believed could play better because he had assembled it as general manager.
Yet, in the locker room after the Hornets’ 110-102 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night, Bower’s players wanted to make it about him, if only for the few moments it took to give him the game ball and a round of applause.
“We’ve been through a lot here in the last couple of weeks and we’re just showing him that we’re trying as a team, as an organization, to turn everything around and that we appreciate everything that (he’s) done,” shooting guard Devin Brown(notes) said. “It’s just Step 1. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re just telling him, ‘Thank you.”’
Because of the timing of the coaching change, Bower did not hold his first full practice until Monday.
“After everything that we put into it yesterday, it was great to come out and reward ourselves with a victory,” Brown said. “I think guys felt a lot better after that practice. I think it showed tonight because we were able to move the ball around and we were knocking shots down.”
David West(notes) had 24 points and 10 rebounds. With Paul out, point guards Darren Collison(notes) and Bobby Brown(notes) scored 12 apiece and combined for 11 assists as New Orleans snapped a three-game losing streak. Devin Brown had 16 points.
Paul still managed an assist of sorts, organizing the postgame gesture of giving the game ball to Bower.
“It made me feel good,” Bower said. “They gave great effort and it was a pretty good night for us.”
New Orleans led by as much as 14 in the first half and never trailed after the first quarter.
“Any time you give a team like that a big lead, especially on the road, it’s going to be tough to come back,” said Clippers center Marcus Camby(notes), who had 14 rebounds. “We dug ourselves in too deep of a hole to climb out of it. We weren’t hitting shots that we normally make. I think that was pretty much the ballgame.”
Al Thornton(notes) scored 30 points and former Hornets guard Baron Davis(notes) had 23 for the Clippers, who have lost four of five. Chris Kaman(notes) finished with 17 points, Rasual Butler(notes) had 12 and Steve Novak(notes) 10.
Peja Stojakovic(notes) scored 15 points for New Orleans, hitting six free throws in the final minute to seal the win. Rookie reserve Marcus Thornton(notes) added 12 points and Emeka Okafor(notes) grabbed 14 rebounds.
The Hornets enjoyed their largest lead at 95-79 when Marcus Thornton hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles called timeout after the second one, then began to chip away at the deficit.
Al Thornton scored two quick baskets on strong inside moves, the second as he was fouled. He and Davis combined for back-to-back driving layups later to pull Los Angeles to 97-88.
After West’s free throws, Davis, who was 7 of 21 shooting, hit his first 3 in eight tries.
New Orleans outrebounded the Clippers 51-36 and outscored Los Angeles at the foul line, 28-17.
NOTES: The Clippers have lost 11 straight to the Hornets in the regular season. … In these teams’ first meeting in Los Angeles eight nights earlier, the Hornets dominated in an 112-84 victory, during which Devin Brown tied a career high with 25 points. … Reserve center Hilton Armstrong(notes) did not dress because of a right shoulder sprain that occurred in Monday’s practice.