The New Orleans Hornets will be going for back-to-back wins on Tuesday night for only the second time this season. But with the return of the team's top scorer seemingly breathing new life into the lineup, it looks much more attainable.
The Hornets will try to start a rare winning streak when they host the Atlanta Hawks.
New Orleans (7-23) hasn't won consecutive games since Nov. 2-3 - its second and third games of the season - but has won two of its last three, the most recent victory highlighted by Eric Gordon's season debut.
Gordon came off the bench to score 24 points in less than 25 minutes in Saturday's 98-95 win at Charlotte. He also had seven assists and two steals in his first game since April 22.
The fifth-year pro only played nine games last season and had arthroscopic surgery on his knee because of a bone bruise.
"I felt pretty good, I was kind of surprised," Gordon said. "Now I'm just going to try to get better and better from here. I wouldn't have had a chance to help this team earlier with my knee, but I'm glad everything is working out now."
The impact of having Gordon on the court isn't just limited to his individual production. Perhaps even more valuable is what he does for his teammates, as his scoring ability commands attention from the opposing defense.
Ryan Anderson, the team leader with 17.7 points per game, said he hadn't received open looks like he did against Charlotte in a while. He credited the presence of Gordon, who averaged a career-high 22.3 points in 56 games for the Clippers in 2010-11.
"He's a special player," said Anderson, who had 19 points and eight rebounds. "There are not a lot of guys like him in the NBA. He hasn't quite warmed up to be 100 percent comfortable yet with this group on the court, but to come out and take over like that, that is the mark of a special player."
The Hawks (19-10) had a four-game win streak snapped with a 123-104 loss at Houston on Monday in the opener of a three-game trip. Atlanta allowed the Rockets to go on a 16-0 run in the second quarter and could never overcome an 18-point halftime deficit.
The 123 points were the most allowed this season by the Hawks, who relied more on their offense during the winning streak. Atlanta is averaging 106.6 ppg over its last five but couldn't keep pace with high-scoring Houston, which shot 53.6 percent from the field.
"Houston's shooting pretty much sums it up,'' said Josh Smith, who scored 17 points after missing one game with a hip injury. "They got on a streak where they couldn't miss.''
Monday's defeat wasn't a result of the Hawks' 3-point shooting, which remained hot as they went 12 of 23 from beyond the arc and have hit 10 or more in a franchise-record four straight games.
Devin Harris (7.7 ppg) and Anthony Morrow (5.5) have missed the last seven and two games for Atlanta, respectively, and coach Larry Drew said they won't be with the team until it returns home on Saturday.
"We won't know how long (they will be out) until we get back," Drew told the team's official website. "We're still just treating both guys."
The teams have split their last eight meetings, with the Hawks winning last season's lone matchup, 94-72 in New Orleans. Jeff Teague scored a season-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range.