Over the past month, New Orleans (32-13) has established itself as one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. The Hornets have also consistently outworked and outhustled their opposition, two big factors in their fantastic 12-2 month of January. On Wednesday vs. Golden State, however, the hosts didn’t fare well in either category, resulting in an end to a nine-game winning streak.
The high-powered Warriors connected on 52 percent of their field-goal attempts and drained 13 three-pointers, while scoring the most points by a Hornets opponent since Dec. 7. Golden State also appeared to get to more loose balls than New Orleans and ended up with an 18-12 edge in fast-break points.
Stephen Jackson was a consistent-big shot maker for the Warriors, finishing with 26 points. Baron Davis also bagged several key buckets and netted 23.
“When they’re hot, they can beat anybody in this league,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said of the Warriors.
Chris Paul finished with 28 points and 12 assists to pace the Hornets.
Five observations from the 13-point defeat at the Hive:
1) For the first time in awhile, opponent shows more energy than Hornets.
Despite playing a ton of games recently, New Orleans hasn't shown much drop-off in intensity from night to night. That changed Wednesday. You could tell Golden State badly wanted this one. The Warriors were focused and intent on posting a very impressive road victory. As you would expect, road teams that have come here lately have been much more businesslike than they were earlier in the regular season, before the Hornets starting looking like one of the best teams in the NBA.
"We didn't come out with the type of energy that we normally have," Scott said. "But you've got to give the Warriors a lot of credit. They came in and shot the heck out of the ball. They played a great ballgame."
2) One unexpected factor in the win streak coming to an end? Illness.
It was unfortunate to see the nine-gamer halted with the Hornets' roster not at full strength. Morris Peterson (viral infection) was not healthy enough to even come to the Arena, meaning Jannero Pargo was moved into the starting lineup. Melvin Ely played four minutes in the first half but had to exit due to an upper respiratory problem.
As a result, Scott was down to basically seven guys who've been a part of the recent rotation the four remaining starters, Pargo, Ryan Bowen and Rasual Butler.
"It hurt, because the last 10 or 11 games, we've had a pretty set rotation with the guys coming off the bench," Scott said. "With Mo not here, putting Pargo in the starting lineup takes away some of the scoring punch from the bench. With Melvin being sick, it hurts our low-post game. It changed the complexion of what we wanted to do on both ends of the court.
"I didn't want to play (the starters) as many minutes as I did, but it was a situation where it was hard to take them out of the game."
3) Byron Scott has to wait to guarantee his seat on the All-Star bench.
The Hornets now need to win in Sacramento on Friday to wrap up their head coach's trip to the All-Star Game. Even if they lose to the Kings, Scott will coach the West if Dallas loses either at Boston on Thursday or at Detroit on Super Bowl Sunday.
Several Hornets players have mentioned that it is very important to them to get Scott into the midseason game. Scott said he appreciated the sentiment, but would be happier if the club gets more Hornets into the All-Star Game.
"I've had the opportunity to (participate in the All-Star Game) a couple times," Scott said. "So if I do it, fine. If I don't, if a couple more of our players can get there, that would be a good thing."
4) Point guard duel is basically a draw.
Chris Paul ended up with better overall stats (28 points, 12 assists) than Baron Davis (26 points, 3 assists), but Davis made several huge baskets to break the Hornets' backs late. It seemed like just about every BD field goal was a momentum-changer. Paul scored 23 points in the first half. It was noticeable how frequently Golden State played off Paul, daring him to shoot. That strategy was pretty effective in keeping CP3 out of the lane in the halfcourt offense.
5) A difficult road trips awaits.
There are no easy stops on the Hornets' three-game road trek that begins Friday in Sacramento, then heads to Utah and Phoenix. Of the trio, only the Kings have a losing record, but they now have three quality players back in the fold that missed extended action earlier in the season (Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin, Ron Artest).
"All three of them are tough at home," Scott said. "We don't want to get into a streak now where we're losing games. We want to snap back out of it right away."