Hornets match club record with 10th straight win
OAKLAND – Monty Williams hardly planned to go back to his starters in the waning moments. The Hornets’ first-year coach had little choice to preserve his team’s winning streak.
As great as things are going for New Orleans of late, there have been some lapses.
Chris Paul had 18 points and 17 assists playing on a tender ankle, and the Hornets matched a franchise record with their 10th straight victory, beating the Golden State Warriors 112-103 on Wednesday night.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Paul said. “Tonight we were aggressive on the defensive end from the jump ball and able to set the tone.”
David West added 22 points as New Orleans kicked off a three-game West Coast trip by equaling the club’s longest unbeaten run, produced from Feb. 21-March 13, 1998. The Hornets also avenged a disappointing seven-point home loss to the Warriors back on Jan. 5 with their fifth straight road victory.
New Orleans, with the NBA’s longest active winning streak, also got 19 points from Trevor Ariza and 11 from former Warrior Marco Belinelli.
But the bench didn’t do its part they way Williams would have liked.
“We’re not going to nitpick, but it’s one of those things where we don’t want to lose our rhythm because we think we’re better than we are,” Williams said. “We’re winning games because we play a certain way. And when we don’t, it doesn’t look good.”
Monta Ellis scored 26 points in another big night as he tries to become Golden State’s first All-Star since Latrell Sprewell in 1997. Dorell Wright scored 25 points and Stephen Curry added 20 points and six assists, a day after spraining his troublesome right ankle during practice. David Lee had 16 points and 10 rebounds, and the Warriors shot 50.7 percent.
But Golden State committed 21 turnovers, allowed the Hornets to shoot 62.2 percent and couldn’t keep up with the NBA’s best defense – or with Paul and his talented supporting cast for that matter.
Paul shot 7 for 9 and showed no ill effects of rolling his ankle in Monday night’s 91-89 win over Oklahoma City – “gotta tough it out,” he said. Paul has passed for 16 or more assists in a game three times this season.
“That says a lot about him managing a game and being able to dominate,” Williams said.
Emeka Okafor contributed 13 points and seven boards as every Hornets starter scored in double figures.
Golden State lost its third straight after a four-game winning streak, two of those defeats in a three-day span against two of the league’s top teams. The Warriors fell 113-102 to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
This time, fans began making their way to the Oracle Arena exits midway through the fourth quarter.
The Hornets (31-16) came in allowing a league-low 90.9 points, and only 85 points during their winning streak. Golden State wound up well above that and still didn’t have enough.
Afterward, first-year Warriors coach Keith Smart called out his players for how they started the game.
“The NBA takes two things: effort and toughness,” Smart said. “And if you’ve got effort and you have toughness, you’re going to have a chance to play against any team in the NBA. If you don’t show any of that against the good teams, they’re going to force their will. And we didn’t force our will early in the game.”
The Warriors scored eight unanswered points in the third quarter to close to 65-61, but New Orleans quickly responded with a 10-2 burst to regain control.
Golden State had won the last two meetings, including a 110-103 victory at New Orleans on Jan. 5 in which the Warriors rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit and used a 27-7 run to start the fourth quarter to take the lead for good.
The Hornets weren’t about to let that happen this time.
“Last game we gave up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter pretty quickly,” Okafor said. “We wanted to make sure it didn’t happen again.”
Another motivation: Golden State spoiled the Hornets’ last nine-game streak with a 116-103 victory in New Orleans on Jan. 30, 2008.
Paul dished out five assists in the opening 6 1/2 minutes and New Orleans shot 65.2 percent in the first quarter, when the Hornets hit 14 of their first 17 shots and forced seven turnovers.
The Warriors used a 12-0 run in the second quarter to get back in it but still trailed 61-49 at halftime.
“We have to get away from being safe,” Smart said. “We play safe too much.”
NOTES: Belinelli, drafted by Golden State 18th overall in 2007, has started every game this season for New Orleans. … Williams hopes to see Okafor and West join Paul as Western Conference All-Stars. Not that he’s campaigning, per se. “I’m not much of a politician,” he said. “I just think it’s something that will take care of itself.” … New Oakland mayor Jean Quan and actor and activist Danny Glover attended the game to raise awareness about AIDS through the NBA Cares “Greater than AIDS” movement. … The Hornets improved to 16-11 vs. the Western Conference, 7-7 on the road. … Smart acknowledged Curry’s ankle could be a recurring problem this season considering the guard doesn’t have enough time off to let the injury fully heal.