The Hornets accomplished at least three things by beating the Rockets in the Big Easy: New Orleans (17-9) moved into a tie with Houston (19-11) near the top of the Southwest Division standings. They evened the season series at 1-1 against one of the teams that could easily continue to be a constant companion in the race for divisional and conference supremacy. They also managed to get rid of some of the bitter taste from their embarrassing Christmas Day performance in Orlando a day earlier.
Chris Paul (26 points, 10 assists) and David West (23 points, 6 rebounds) delivered All-Star-caliber games, as New Orleans ended a two-game winning streak by holding off Houston. This was a nip-and-tuck affair most of the way; the Hornets biggest lead was their final nine-point margin of victory. New Orleans held slim two-point leads at halftime and through three quarters.
The Hornets were only leading by three with 2:09 left, but put together a game-closing 9-3 run.
There were several excellent sound bites from Byron Scotts postgame press conference. Scott, one of the NBAs most straightforward coaches in his dealings with the media, had some pointed things to say after the hard-fought win.
Scott emphasized that his team needs to consistently play intensely, a trait he saw frequently from last seasons club but he believes has been lacking at times in 2007-08.
The thing that I would hear a lot last year from other coaches and other general managers was, Man, you guys play so hard. Scott remembered. I havent heard that this year. I told the guys, Thats what we have to do. Thats our identity. Thats how we have to play. We cannot allow teams to outhustle us.
It boggles my mind that we could come out the way we did (in Orlando). It was embarrassing. The guys took it upon themselves to play much better tonight.
Scott was asked if this win "makes up for" Thursday's defeat. Scott vehemently disagreed with the notion.
"Nothing makes up for that," he responded. "We've got to put together a string of games where we play hard, to forget about the way we played (in Orlando)."
Scott gave credit to Rasual Butler (13 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block) for helping limit Houston star Tracy McGrady to just 11 points on 2-for-11 shooting. "We tried to force him to shoot contested jump shots, and I thought we did a very good job of that," Scott said.