Neither of the Hornets' first two games on this road trip have been easy. Facing two teams that have been out of the race for months, New Orleans has had to scratch and claw every step of the way. Under the circumstances though - with three key Hornets out of the lineup due to injury - the bottom-line results have been exceptional.
New Orleans (47-27) picked up its third straight victory by holding off the Clippers, who pulled within a point late in the fourth quarter. Chris Paul's 12-point fourth quarter, part of a 30-point game, enabled the Hornets to continue their push to move up the Western Conference standings.
"This was a great win for us, especially coming off last night," Paul said, referring to Tuesday's hard-fought win at Sacramento. "David West carried the load for us last night, so I thought I would do my part tonight."
West, who poured in 40 points against the Kings despite limping in the entire second half, added 19 points tonight.
With several of the other playoff-bound teams in the West matched up against each other this week, the Hornets are assured of gaining ground on several other teams, as long as they keep winning. Although as recently as a week ago it looked like shorthanded New Orleans might drift to the bottom of the top eight in the West, the Hornets have benefited significantly by help in other games over the past 48 hours.
New Orleans moved into a fifth-place tie with idle Portland (47-27), but the Hornets will hold the tiebreaking advantage over the Trail Blazers based on conference record. The Hornets also gained a full game on Houston (48-27) and is now just 0.5 games behind the Rockets. New Orleans could pull ahead of Houston on Friday, when the Hornets are at Golden State and the Rockets visit the West-leading Lakers.
Meanwhile, the Hornets are also just one game behind San Antonio (48-26) for first place in the Southwest Division. The Spurs next three games are all on the road, including stops in Indiana, Cleveland and Oklahoma City. Add it up and the picture looks considerably brighter for New Orleans right now, despite continue to play without starters Tyson Chandler (ankle) and Peja Stojakovic (back), as well as top reserve James Posey (elbow).