New Orleans (44-25) posted its third straight victory against an out-of-contention Western Conference opponent tonight, all on its home floor. Unlike the previous two wins, this one didn't require a last-possession defensive stop (Minnesota game), or a huge fourth-quarter rally (Memphis). The Hornets led virtually wire-to-wire, with the Warriors' biggest lead being a two-point edge in the first quarter.
By virtue of the victory and Houstons two-point triumph in San Antonio earlier Sunday, New Orleans pulled within one game of the Spurs and is now 1.5 games behind the Rockets, who vaulted into first place in the Southwest Division.
Its going to be a tight race probably all the way until the end of the season, Hornets coach Byron Scott said. I know we play at Houston and at San Antonio in the last two games of the regular season, and those games could be critical. But every game is critical right now.
A few other notes from tonights victory (the Hornets host Denver next at 7 p.m. Wednesday):
It only took Hilton Armstrong 17 minutes of playing time to record his first career double-double, with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Unfortunately for the third-year center, he sustained a cut on his right ring finger that required stitches. He exited the game in the third quarter and did not return. It definitely stunk, Armstrong said of having to depart in the midst of his career-best game. I didnt realize my stats until after the game when Melvin (Ely) told me. He said, Its too bad you got hurt. You messed up your career-highs. You couldve had something like 20 and 18! Armstrongs status is uncertain for Wednesday.
Ryan Bowen also suffered an in-game injury, a separated left shoulder after colliding with Corey Maggette in the initial minute of his appearance. Bowen actually ended up playing six more minutes with the separated shoulder, before heading to the locker room. The 6-foot-9 forward said he hopes to be able to play Wednesday, but Scott I dont think Ryan will be (available) for the Nuggets game.
In 24 minutes of action, Julian Wright registered a career-high four blocked shots, continuing to be a disruptive presence on defense (he had four steals and a block vs. Memphis on Friday). I think Im learning how to defend without fouling, the 6-foot-8 forward said. With his 6-8 frame, long arms and leaping ability, shot-blocking seems to be a skill that Wright could develop with more experience. In some instances, hes letting the man hes guarding get too close to his body, instead of giving the offensive player space and utilizing his reach to still alter the shot. Some of my teammates tell me after some of the fouls I get that, You dont even know how much length you have, Wright noted. Im trying to take that into account more.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
I thought we would be able to play about 5 or 6 minutes in that fourth quarter and get a chance to rest those guys (the starters) a little but Golden State didnt want to cooperate. They started to make a few shots and get some stops and really got us back into the game. But like I said its a win, we are trying to keep this thing rolling as much as possible.
Anytime you get a big lead the thing that scares you the most is that you tend to relax so complacency has a little bit to do with it. We had talked about coming out aggressively in the fourth quarter so we could get them out of there and they could get some rest but it didnt work out the way we wanted to. Other than that im pretty happy with the win.
It was a good win for us. We went into the fourth quarter up by maybe 20 points. We knew this was a team that was not going to give up and we still came out with a win.
On Hilton Armstrong: He was playing outstanding. We knew that this was a team that was going to switch on the ball screens and he did a great job of ducking in and getting a lot of easy baskets for us.
On Denver: Really good team coming in here. They have Carmelo coming in now, Chauncey has been playing well and so has JR Smith. Big game for us here at home, but as long as the fans continue to come out and support us, I think we will be ok.
On his first double-double: It felt great. I have been waiting for this along time and finally got it. Thank God it happened.
On the injury: I was so mad, I was upset. Turiaf went up to dunk it and I blocked it with my finger tips and barely got it and my finger bent back and hit the front of the rim and split open. I took five stitches. Hope fully I can come back and it will hold up.