Byron Scott joked Friday before tip-off that he might make sure all of his players newspaper subscriptions are permanently canceled. Scott said he was concerned that many of the lofty preseason accolades bestowed on the Hornets were making them think they were already an elite team.
We havent won anything yet, Scott cautioned.
If the Hornets needed another early-season reminder of the danger of not performing at a high level, the Bobcats provided one. Charlotte led much of the way Friday and staved off New Orleans in the final minute, handing the Hornets (3-2) their second straight defeat.
After trailing 47-35 at halftime, New Orleans rallied back to take the lead in the fourth quarter. However, Charlotte went 9-for-10 from the foul line in the final stanza and drilled three clutch three-pointers to regain control. Peja Stojakovic canned a difficult turnaround trey to cut the Hornets deficit to 90-89 with 14 seconds remaining, but Bobcats guard Raymond Felton sank two free throws for a 92-89 margin. Chris Pauls deep three-point attempt just before the buzzer rolled off the rim, sealing the victory for the hosts.
Other developments from Fridays loss in North Carolina:
TALE OF TWO HALVES
Pauls night mirrored that of his team. Playing in front of a group of 500 friends and family who were at the game courtesy of the 6-foot point guard, Paul went scoreless in the first half. He then racked up 20 points in the second half and had five steals in the fourth quarter alone. But he also committed an uncharacteristic turnover with the Hornets trailing by two with less than 20 seconds remaining, when he left his feet to make a pass and lost control.
I thought in the first half he tried to defer to his teammates and get everyone involved, Scott said, referring to Pauls scoreless initial 24 minutes. Everyone just missed (shots). But we have to be more aggressive. When the shots arent fouling, weve got to take the ball to the basket.
Chris was more aggressive in the second half.
ROUGH NIGHT FOR BIGS
Hornets frontcourt stalwarts Tyson Chandler and David West battled foul trouble all game and couldnt get untracked. West ended up fouling out in the fourth quarter, while Chandlers playing time was limited after he was whistled for foul No. 4 in the first half.
We were better (on defense than vs. Atlanta), but weve got to do a better job of playing defense without fouling, said Scott, after Charlotte piled up 31 free-throw attempts.
West went 3-for-12 from the floor and was held to 11 points, while Chandler had two points and seven rebounds in 32 minutes.
Backup point guard Mike James played a quiet nine minutes, not making much of a dent in the stat sheet. However, James was on the floor for a 2:11 stretch of the fourth quarter that allowed Paul some rest. The Hornets maintained a three-point edge during that portion of the period.
Elsewhere, Rasual Butler contributed two more timely fourth-quarter baskets, including a three-pointer that cut it to 87-86 with 56 seconds remaining. James Posey had six of his 11 points in the final period.
Hilton Armstrong supplied six points and four boards, along with three fouls, in 17 minutes. Devin Brown had two points and two turnovers in a seven-minute stint.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
(On tonights game)
They (the Bobcats) did a great job of keeping the ball out of the lane. I wasnt able to get in there as easy and create shots for our shooters and they did a really great job of guarding Tyson Chandler. They made it really hard to get the ball back into half court.
(On not scoring in the first half)
I always approach every game and just take what they (defenses) give me. I never want to force it. As a point guard I try to get everyone involved and if its there for me Ill take it.
(On tonights game)
They (the Bobcats) came out today and played aggressive. They went after loose balls and played great defense, and defense wins in the NBA.
(On the Bobcats taking the ball out of Chris Pauls hands)
We knew that was going to happen based on the success we had last year that guys were going to try to get the ball out of Chris hands and that its going to be up to other guys to make plays.
(On tonights game)
We just didnt play well. We had a decent game defensively, but we just didnt play well enough.
(On returning to North Carolina)
It feels good to play in front of people you know, but when you dont win or come out and play well it doesnt matter much.
(On why the Hornets lost the game tonight)
I look at the 30 points they got off of turnovers and the 29 points they got off of free throws. When you make 60 percent of your points off free throws and turnovers, thats pretty much the ball game right there. You have to give the (Bobcats) a lot of credit. They shot their free throws extremely well.
(On the Hornets losing two straight games)
We just have to keep playing hard and thats the biggest thing. We are going to be fine. Expectations obviously have put a little pressure on our guys. Coming in to the end of the game they were kind of tight and we had some turnovers, but well be okay.
(On Charlottes defense against Chris Paul)
They (the Bobcats) did a great job with that. He cant have the ball in his hands all the time. Our other guys have to have the confidence to bring the ball up the court. When a team does do a great job of taking the ball out of his hands, other teams are going to try to do the same thing.