Hornets seek to avenge early loss to 76ers

Associated Press photo by Kathy Willens -- New Orleans Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez was second in voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player.
Associated Press photo by Kathy Willens -- New Orleans Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez was second in voting for the NBA's Most Improved Player.

NEW ORLEANS — When the Hornets last met the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans had shown some promise.

In the Hornets’ first three games before playing Philadelphia on Nov. 7 at New Orleans Arena, they had dropped a close one in the opener against San Antonio, then beat Utah at home and won at Chicago without rookie power forward Anthony Davis.

Then came the 76ers and point guard Jrue Holiday.

Holiday was a pest on both ends of the court as the Sixers frustrated the Hornets 77-62. He had 14 points and 12 assists in carrying Philadelphia offensively. Perhaps more important, he led the 76ers’ defensive effort, holding Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez to seven points and seven assists.

With New Orleans struggling to get into its offense, it turned the ball over 24 times and shot 33.3 percent. Its point total was a franchise low.

“Jrue just controlled the game,” 76ers coach Doug Collins said.

The Hornets (11-26) meet the 76ers (16-22) again Tuesday night in Philadelphia, the second of a three-game road swing against Eastern Conference teams. They play Wednesday night at Boston.

When the Hornets and Sixers met in November, shooting guard Eric Gordon had just left to begin rehabilitating his ailing right knee in Los Angeles, and Davis, then looking like the team’s best player, was sitting out his second consecutive game after suffering a mild concussion against Utah.

Although the Hornets beat Charlotte in the game after losing to the Sixers, they proceeded to lose the next 11 as teams pressured Vasquez and tried to shadow 3-point shooter Ryan Anderson the way Philadelphia forward Thaddeus Young did.

A lot has happened since then. Davis has long returned, Gordon came back nine games ago and the Hornets found a rhythm, winning four straight before Sunday’s loss at New York.

The Sixers are hoping their victory Saturday against Houston, the first of 12 games at home out of 13, is the start of their turnaround. They had lost five in a row and 16 of their previous 21.

Guard/forward Evan Turner said the 76ers are hopeful the homestand will result in a big winning streak.

“We’ve been given a great opportunity to be at home, and that’s what we’ve got to do,” he said.

The Hornets’ loss to the Knicks included their penchant for a bad quarter occurring again, just when it seemed coach Monty Williams’ team may be solving that problem. After taking a 29-22 first-quarter lead, the Hornets scored 12 points in the second quarter and trailed 49-41 at halftime. The Knicks sealed the win with a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter.

The Hornets’ first game against the 76ers is when this season’s problems with poor quarters began. Philadelphia, which had lost its first three games, held the Hornets to 10 points in the third quarter and 15 in the fourth to notch its first win.

In turning things around of late, the Hornets’ bench has been strong, and the team’s defense has appeared much improved.

But a big key has been that New Orleans has avoided those killer quarters in avenging losses to some good teams.

“We try to play the right way every time,” Williams said. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve dropped some of these games the way we have, but the opportunity to play against teams again shouldn’t change the scenario.”