Hornets (11-1), Kings (4-8)
It was over when... Marco Belinelli connected on two free throws with 6 seconds remaining, giving New Orleans a two-possession advantage. Sacramento's Francisco Garcia misfired on a subsequent three-point attempt, sealing the Hornets' third straight victory since a Monday loss in Dallas. The Hornets were out of sync nearly all game, but continued to lean heavily on the NBA's most improved defense.
"This morning was one of those days where you felt like everything was off," Monty Williams described. "Early game on the West Coast, first game (on the trip). You felt it in the first quarter. But guys made plays down the stretch, and that's what you have to do."
Hornets MVP: Trevor Ariza finished with 16 points, including a pivotal three-pointer with 3:23 remaining. Ariza's trey put New Orleans in front for good at 69-68. Williams also credited Ariza with helping contain Kings star guard Tyreke Evans (9 points, 4-for-12 shooting). "I thought Trevor's defense on Tyreke was great," Williams said. "It gave him a different look and made him take some tough shots."
"What he did against Evans, that's what's going to win us games," David West said.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Late offseason free-agent pickup D.J. Mbenga has been used sporadically depending partly on matchups so far. The 7-footer blocked two shots in nine minutes and had a three-point play on offense.
"He gives us a presence down there," Williams said of Mbenga's D. "His size helped us a bit tonight. (The win) just shows if you play defense you give yourself a chance, and D.J. helped out that second unit out tonight."
The buzz on... New Orleans' outstanding defense. The Hornets' streak of holding opponents under 100 points ended Friday vs. Cleveland, but two days later, they were back to their trademark stingy ways. Virtually across the board, the Hornets have made personnel decisions over the last few months with defense as a priority. Williams and Hornets assistant coach Mike Malone - who helped turn the Cavs into a premier defensive team during the LeBron James Era - both say that playing time will be doled out largely on defensive contributions. Players like Ariza and Willie Green have had decent offensive seasons, but have made larger impacts on the defensive end, a trait past Hornets teams have had in short supply. The ability to lock down the opponent has enabled New Orleans to win ugly in several instances, already posting road victories despite final tallies of 87 (in Milwaukee) and 75 points. Sunday's 75-point winning score was the fewest by any victorious NBA team since 2008.
Blog question of the night: On Saturday, New Orleans completed a five-player trade with Toronto that sent Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless to the Raptors. What impact do you expect new trade acquisitions Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks to make for the Hornets?