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Hornets-Pistons Preview

AP - Sports

While the New Orleans Hornets have been able to hang tough through three quarters of play, they've been plagued by an inability to get things going over the final 12 minutes.

The Detroit Pistons have experienced fourth-quarter woes of their own - and despite almost letting another win slip away - managed to hold off their last opponent.

Hoping to avoid a 14th loss in 15 games, Western Conference-worst New Orleans looks to snap a five-game road losing streak Saturday night when it visits the Palace of Auburn Hills.

One day after getting outscored 32-16 in the fourth quarter of a 120-103 loss to Phoenix, the Hornets' late-game struggles continued in Thursday's 93-81 loss at San Antonio. New Orleans (4-19) shot just 29.0 percent from the floor in getting outscored 22-13 in the final quarter.

"It's just closing out games like coach said over and over but like I said (Wednesday) night, we just have to flush the toilet on this one and look forward to the next game and continue to work harder," guard Marco Belinelli said.

With star Eric Gordon still sidelined with a sore right knee and fellow guard Jarrett Jack out with knee pain, Greivis Vasquez scored 16 in his first start of the season.

"We lost the last two games in the fourth quarter," Vasquez said. "We play hard in the third quarter and then we do not execute in the fourth. As a point guard it's hard to fill Chris Paul's shoes but I expect myself to be better and that takes a little work."

The Hornets are averaging just 21.0 points in the fourth quarter to rank 29th in the league - ahead of only Detroit's mark of 20.7. The Pistons (5-20) had dropped seven in a row by 14.4 points per game but regrouped with an 88-80 win over Milwaukee on Friday.

Detroit led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter but saw its lead slip to four with 2:54 remaining to play. While the Pistons were outscored 19-16 in the fourth, they were able to shut down the Bucks when it mattered most.

"Everybody just gave the maximum effort tonight," Greg Monroe, who had 18 points and 11 boards for his sixth double-double in seven contests, told the team's official website. "Communication was good. Everybody was on the same page. We're getting better."

Also coming up big was Brandon Knight, who had a season-high 26 points.

"Me, as a rookie, that's something I've got to be able to do each and every game, no matter who we're playing against," said Knight, the eighth overall pick who is averaging 12.3 points.

The Pistons haven't won back-to-back games since Dec. 31-Jan. 2.

The Hornets have been outscored by an average of 9.4 points during their road skid. They've also dropped three of four at Detroit, including back-to-back overtime defeats.

Jack's injury isn't considered serious, but his status for Saturday is uncertain. Vazquez, who posted career highs of 20 points and 12 assists versus the Suns, would likely draw another start if Jack can't go.

After excusing Chris Kaman from team activities last week while trying to trade him, New Orleans reactivated the 7-foot center Friday. Kaman isn't expected to be available in this game but could return Monday versus Sacramento.

Saturday marks the only meeting between the teams this season.

Detroit's Ben Gordon is likely to miss a 10th consecutive game due to a shoulder injury.

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