New Orleans has been able to bounce back from losses twice this season with wins over the Los Angeles Clippers. On Friday night, however, the Hornets will put their longest winning streak of the season on the line.
The Western Conference-leading Hornets look to win seven straight games in a single season for the first time in nearly five years when they host the Clippers.
New Orleans (29-12) is 2-0 against Los Angeles (13-25) this season, yielding 85.0 points per game. The Hornets had lost three straight before beating the Clippers 98-89 on Nov. 24, then won the teams' next matchup 95-81 on Jan. 2, two days after losing to Toronto.
This time, New Orleans has a chance to win seven straight in a single season for the first time since an eight-game run from Feb. 19-March 7, 2003.
The Hornets have won 14 of 16 overall and have the West's top record after the best first half of a season in franchise history. They also have matched a season best with five straight wins at home, where they are 14-7 on the season.
But four of the first five games during New Orleans' current run were against losing teams, and the team felt it needed to make a statement Wednesday night when it beat Portland 96-81.
"This win gives us credibility," said Hornets guard Jannero Pargo, who had a season-high 24 points. "Some people thought we were winning because we're playing a lot of teams under .500, but Portland is a good team and they have been playing well all year long."
Chris Paul added 18 points and 10 assists for New Orleans. The point guard leads the Hornets with 21.0 points per game, but is averaging 11.0 while shooting 32.4 percent from the field in his last three contests against the Clippers.
Chris Kaman's imposing presence for Los Angeles has made it tough for opposing players to drive into the paint. He added another benchmark to his breakout season, finishing with 20 points and 21 rebounds in a 111-85 win over Sacramento on Wednesday night.
It was the fifth time in Kaman's five NBA seasons that he has had at least 20 points and 20 rebounds. This season, with Elton Brand's ruptured Achilles', Kaman has had more of an opportunity to display his skills. He is averaging 17.4 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game.
"He's a great kid, he works so hard and he's got all the tools," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "Our entire coaching staff has been working a lot with him and he's learned so much. He's got great hands and great feet. And if you get a guy like that, you just know he's got a chance to be really good."
Wednesday's game was Los Angeles' first since a two-day war of words between Dunleavy and owner Donald Sterling in the Los Angeles Times.
"We're both frustrated about the losses and we both spoke out of frustration," said Dunleavy, whose team has won three of five following a four-game skid. "I had a good conversation with him ... and overall I think I made him feel comfortable and he made me feel comfortable. I know he is committed and wants to do whatever it takes to win, and I'm certainly committed."
The Clippers, however, have lost five straight road games, averaging 89.4 points during that span.
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