The New Orleans Hornets seem comfortable playing in overtime. That bodes well if they need to play past regulation yet again against the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
New Orleans (33-15) has won 13 straight overtime games following a 98-95 loss to Portland on Dec. 9, 2005. Four of those have been this season, two against Memphis (13-36). The Hornets went on to beat the Grizzlies both times - 120-118 on Nov. 16 and 118-116 on Dec. 7.
New Orleans was clutch in extra time yet again Wednesday, with Peja Stojakovic making a 22-footer at the buzzer to give the Hornets a 132-130 double-overtime win over Phoenix.
"I think it shows a lot of fight in our team and we still have our undefeated streak in overtime going," said Hornets guard Chris Paul, who had 42 points, one short of his career high.
That win improved New Orleans to 3-0 versus the Western Conference-leading Suns. The Hornets, who trail Southwest Division-leading Dallas by one-half game, will be going for their first sweep of Memphis since 1999-00 when both teams were playing in different locations.
The Hornets, who were still based in Charlotte, N.C., won both games against a Grizzlies franchise that had yet to move from Vancouver, British Columbia.
After snapping a season high-tying three-game losing streak Wednesday, the Hornets face a Grizzlies team that has lost seven straight road games.
Paul, who is scheduled to play in the All-Star game later this month in New Orleans, has been outstanding against lowly Memphis. He converted a driving layup through a crowd with 1.8 seconds left in overtime, and finished with 43 to lead New Orleans over Memphis on Dec. 7. On Dec. 26, the he had 40 versus the Grizzlies.
He's averaging 37.0 points, 10.3 assists and 4.6 steals while shooting 57.9 percent (11-for-19) from 3-point range against Memphis this season.
Hornets center Tyson Chandler has also had a strong season against the Grizzlies, averaging 12.3 points and 16.3 rebounds, but his status for this game is uncertain after missing Wednesday's contest with the flu.
Even if Chandler remains sidelined, a matchup with Memphis hardly seems daunting. The Grizzlies' road losing streak is their longest since dropping 10 in a row from Dec. 8, 2006-Jan. 22, 2007. They haven't won on the road since a 90-72 victory over Indiana on Jan. 2.
Memphis has lost five straight overall, averaging 91.0 points in that span. The Grizzlies shot 39.0 percent from the floor (30-for-77) in a 92-81 loss at Dallas on Friday night.
After trading Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers last Saturday, Memphis is struggling to find its way on offense.
"We have to get out and run," Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni said. "Make or miss, we have to push the ball all the time. We've got guys who understand it and guys who are just new to it, and it's a different concept. You have to do that so you can create more easy shots."
Rudy Gay, who has become the focal point of Iavaroni's offense with Gasol no longer available, is averaging 23.3 points this season against the Hornets. Gay leads Memphis with 19.8 points per game.
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