Greivis Vasquez helps Hornets defeat Cavaliers

Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu dunks over Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller in the first half in New Orleans on Sunday, March 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Hornets forward Al-Farouq Aminu dunks over Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller in the first half in New Orleans on Sunday, March 31, 2013. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS — Greivis Vasquez had missed two of the previous three games with a badly sprained ankle. And, in the one he played, he was missing in action.

He made up for lost time Sunday, leading the Hornets to a dominant second half as they surged past the Cleveland Cavaliers for a resounding 112-92 victory in New Orleans Arena.

Vasquez scored 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 16 points in a game-changing third quarter that gave the Hornets control. He said coach Monty Williams called him out at halftime after the Hornets committed 12 turnovers.

“All my coaches, since high school, they’ve been calling me called out,” said Vasquez, who had nine assists. “The only difference is Monty doesn’t cuss you out, which is tougher. When he calls you out, he’s been there and done that, and he knows better.”

The victory came after the Hornets had lost their previous two games, and it gave them a 4-3 record on a tough homestand that featured six teams in playoff position.

“We wanted to end this homestand with a win,” rookie power forward Anthony Davis said. “It was important. We came out and played aggressively.”

The Cavaliers lost their eighth consecutive game despite the return of All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from a sprained left shoulder. Irving, who had a big fourth quarter to lead the Cavs past the Hornets in the teams’ previous meeting Feb. 20, had 31 points.

With Vasquez playing with more energy and control, the Hornets had just three turnovers in the second half.

Other players had big games, too. Forward Ryan Anderson, in his best shooting performance of late, had 23 points, going 5-of-7 on 3-pointers. Benefiting from a synergy with Vasquez that resulted in lobs and dunks, Davis scored 17 points.

Perhaps more important, he had 13 rebounds as the Hornets (45-31) beat an opponent on the boards for the fourth time in six games.

Eric Gordon drove for 14 points and six assists, and backup point guard Brian Roberts, his confidence flowing like the Mississippi after playing well of late, had 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-4 on 3-pointers.

The third quarter ended on a better note than the first half for the Hornets, with Darius Miller hitting a 16-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer to push their lead to 84-73. The Hornets had bounced back after losing the lead at 49-48 on a Shaun Livingston dunk with 0.2 seconds left in the second quarter.

Driven by Vasquez, New Orleans surged to a 66-53 lead by the 7:27 mark of the third. Vasquez had nine points and two assists in the run — a lob for a dunk by Davis and a no-look pass for a dunk by Davis on a gorgeous pick-and-roll.

The Cavs cut it to 71-64 at 3:40, but that hardly mattered. Irving, who had 17 points in the first half, scored just two points in the third while playing 6 minutes, 12 seconds.

With the Hornets leading 75-67 with 2:10 left, Vasquez sank his second 3 of the quarter, putting the margin at 11. Cleveland coach Byron Scott said the key to the Hornets’ big quarter — and their victory — was their pick-and-roll.

“It hurt us because, number one, we didn’t do a very good job of controlling the basketball, and number two, our (big players) didn’t do a good job of being able to show (defensively),” he said. “They were able to get to the basket and kick it to guys for the open 3.”

In his previous game, Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers, Vasquez was scoreless with four assists and five fouls in 28 minutes of a 105-91 loss. He sat out Monday’s victory over Denver and Friday’s loss to Miami.

After a strong third quarter, the Hornets, not wanting this one to get away like other leads of late, stepped on the gas in the fourth. They went on an 11-2 run from the start, with Miller and Anderson sinking 3s, as the lead swelled to 95-75, the largest of the game. Anderson had seven points in the burst.

The lead dipped to 14 twice, the last at 101-87 with 3:19 left, before Roberts hit the first of two 3s down the stretch. That was enough to hold off some last-ditch drives by Irving.