While the New Orleans Hornets seem ready to take a step forward after a disappointing end to last season, the Philadelphia 76ers may be in danger of regressing.
The Hornets look to match the best start in franchise history when they conclude their season series with the struggling 76ers on Wednesday night.
New Orleans and Philadelphia were two of 13 teams in the NBA that finished with less than 40 wins in 2006-07. The Hornets (6-2) have bounced back by opening this season strong while the 76ers (2-5) have lost three straight.
New Orleans has won two in a row - including a 93-72 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday night - and has a chance to win seven of its first nine for the second time in franchise history. The Hornets started 7-2 in 2002-03, when they finished 47-35 and lost to the 76ers in the first round of the playoffs.
New Orleans has been winning with strong defense, holding opponents to 89.9 points per game. On Monday night, the Hornets held an opponent under 90 points for the third time this season, beating New Jersey 84-82.
New Orleans' matchup with Philadelphia was its best defensive performance, as the Hornets held the 76ers to 40.5 percent shooting from the field and 13.3 percent (2-for-15) from 3-point range.
Chris Paul helped limit 76ers point guard Andre Miller to a season-low eight points. Paul had 16 points, nine assists and three steals in that game, but is averaging just 12.5 points in four career games against Philadelphia.
The third-year guard has been the unquestioned leader of New Orleans' resurgence and he came up big again Monday, making a tiebreaking layup with 2.6 seconds left and finishing with a season-high 27 points.
"We showed a lot of fight," Paul said. "Thankfully, we were able to get us out of that situation."
Paul leads the NBA with 10.6 assists per game and is averaging a team-best 19.3 points. He will again match up with Miller, who had 12 points in Philadelphia's 99-84 loss to Dallas on Tuesday night.
The 76ers followed up their poor effort against the Hornets by shooting a season-worst 40.2 percent from the field against the Mavericks.
Andre Iguodala had 15 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists for Philadelphia, which won two of three before its current skid. The 76ers are 1-3 when Iguodala is held under 20 points after going 9-34 in such games last season.
Philadelphia is looking to Iguodala to improve in his first full season playing without Allen Iverson. The fourth-year swingman leads the team with 19.7 points and 2.0 steals per game, but has also made a team-worst 5.1 turnovers a contest - nearly two more than his average a season ago.
Iguodala had seven of the 76ers' 18 turnovers Tuesday after turning the ball over five times against the Hornets. He had 17 points versus the Hornets, but just three assists.
Philadelphia center Samuel Dalembert had one of his best games of the season against New Orleans, finishing with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He had another strong game against Dallas, scoring a season-high 18 points and grabbing seven boards.
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