THE FACTS: Don't look now, but the New Orleans Hornets are on a roll. The Hornets came back from an 18-point second quarter deficit Friday night to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 104-92 en route to their season-best fourth straight win.
Besides Greivis Vasquez with a team-leading 18 points, it was the play of the bench for New Orleans (11-25) that put it over the top. Ryan Anderson pitched in 15 points, Jason Smith had 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting and Roger Mason Jr. contributed 10 as the Hornets outscored a thin Minnesota bench 45-14.
The Timberwolves (16-17) were down to only four substitutes as six players missed with various injuries. Additionally, coach Rick Adelman stayed in Minnesota to be with his wife, who was reportedly hospitalized Thursday. Standout point guard Ricky Rubio had only three points and three assists off the bench. Luke Ridnour's 20 points led Minnesota, which also got 18 from Nikola Pekovic and 17 from Andrei Kirilenko.
But while bench play was critical, so was New Orleans' ability to slow down Minnesota down low. The last time these two teams played, New Orleans gave up 70 points in the paint, helping lead to another loss during an 11-game losing streak. Friday night, the Hornets allowed only 40 points down low, a 35-point swing that played a role in their 12-point win. The Hornets, using alley-oops and putbacks, outscored the Timberwolves in the paint by eight points and had a 44-31 advantage in rebounds.
QUOTABLE: "They got 70 points in the paint the last game. Pekovic killed us. We really just tried to keep him out of our paint as best as we could."
--Hornets' Jason Smith on outscoring the Timberwolves in the paint
THE STAT: 24 -- Minnesota took 24 more free throws than New Orleans, a stat that usually portends a win. But while the Timberwolves were good at the line, they cooled off from the floor. After shooting 55 percent in the opening 12 minutes, Minnesota shot just 40.8 percent in the final three quarters, allowing New Orleans to climb back into the game.
TURNING POINT: It was a simple hook shot by New Orleans' Robin Lopez in the second quarter. But the game turned on it. After an Anthony Davis free throw cut the Hornets' deficit to 17 midway through the second quarter, Lopez's hook started the comeback fully. By halftime the Hornets' had pulled within six points and eventually took the lead on a Vasquez 3-pointer with 5:11 to go in the third. But it was the stretch started by Lopez that turned things around.
QUOTABLE II: "It seemed, at times, some guys had some heavy legs and it is what it is. You just have to get guys to step up and make some shots and make plays. Until we start getting some guys back, this is what we have and everybody has to do a little bit more."
-- Minnesota assistant coach Terry Porter on whether fatigue played a factor for the Timberwolves
HOT: The Hornets' Al-Farouq Aminu hasn't given New Orleans much in the way of points lately, but he's making up for it by being active on the glass. Friday night, he had 13 rebounds and in the past four games, all New Orleans wins, he has brought down 46 boards.
NOT: Though Minnesota's bench was just four deep, those players didn't help much, going just 5-for-12 on the night in 60 combined minutes. The foursome combined for as many turnovers as they did made baskets.
NOTABLE: The Hornets won their first game ever when an opponent made 18 or more free throws. Meanwhile, the nine attempts New Orleans took from the free-throw line are the fourth-fewest in club history. ... Vasquez had his third straight double-double with 18 points and 13 assists. It marked his 12th such feat of the season and the 15th time he has had at least 10 assists. ... All five Timberwolves scored in double figures. ... Minnesota's Dante Cunningham finished just one rebound shy of a double-double as he had 12 points and nine boards.
UP NEXT: For the Hornets, Sunday @ New York, Tuesday @ Philadelphia, Wednesday @ Boston. For the Timberwolves, Sunday @ San Antonio, Monday @ Dallas, Thursday vs. Clippers.