Hornets Buzz Past Shorthanded Rockets
New Orleans/Oklahoma City 86, Houston 80
HOUSTON, Jan. 14 (Ticker) -- The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets seem to have the Houston Rockets' number this season.
Rookie Chris Paul scored 17 points and P.J. Brown added 13 and 10 rebounds as the Hornets eked out an 86-80 victory over the struggling Rockets, who dropped their fifth straight game.
The first two victories came when the Rockets had at least one of their All-Stars on the court. Yao Ming scored 20 points on November 5 and Tracy McGrady scored 38 on December 28. But both were sidelined Saturday.
"On this team, we're used to having Tracy and Yao there to make shots at the end," said rookie guard Luther Head, who scored 18 points. "We're here for a reason, we're here because we know how to make shots. It's all about doing it when it comes down to it."
The Hornets used a total team effort with five players scoring in double figures. They limited the Rockets to 20 percent (3-of-15) from the arc and held a 23-8 edge in bench points.
"Our defense took over in the fourth quarter, and I was proud of the way our team played," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "Even though we won the game, we have a lot of things to learn. Our athleticism and quickness are the keys to our team, and we need to use them to our advantage."
Tied at 66-66 in the fourth quarter, Houston surged ahead with an 8-2 spurt featuring four points from former Hornet David Wesley.
New Orleans/Oklahoma City responded with 10 straight points over a 2 1/2-minute span to take a 78-74 lead. Brown and Paul led the charge, combining for eight points.
"We were a lot more aggressive in the second half," said Paul, who made just 4-of-12 shots. "We were penetrating in the first half, but we were looking to pass instead of shoot. We just took the ball to the basket more in the second half."
Head knocked down a jumper to cut the deficit to 81-78 with 1:12 left, but the Hornets sealed the victory by making 5-of-6 free throws in the final seconds.
"We just lost our intensity in the fourth quarter," Head said. "It was our fault, no excuses. We can't let the little things bother us, and that's what happened tonight. We did a good job of keeping them in front of us the first half, but we just didn't play good enough defense in the fourth quarter."
"They turned it up in the second half, and we had no response," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy added. "You've got to give them credit for that. They play well, and they're well-coached."
Desmond Mason scored 16 points and Speedy Claxton added 12 and seven rebounds for the Hornets, who shot 41 percent (30-of-72) but just 1-of-10 from behind the arc.
Juwan Howard had 22 points and 10 rebounds and Wesley scored 18 points for the Rockets, who shot 39 percent (29-of-73).
"We just couldn't knock the shots down and that's what it boiled down to," said rookie guard John Lucas III, who scored four points on 2-of-8 shooting. "We had good looks and we had good offensive plays that coach was calling. We just have to knock them down."
"We didn't guard the ball well and we didn't help appropriately," Van Gundy said. "I think (we) were sleeping a little bit."