NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis was back in a big way, and so were the New Orleans Hornets.
Playing in his first game since being sidelined with a mild concussion, Davis scored 23 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked five shots and had two steals. The Hornets bounced back from a listless showing two nights ago to turn back the Charlotte Bobcats 107-99 Friday night at New Orleans Arena.
Fueled by an earlier confrontation with Bobcats center/forward Byron Mullens, Davis would not be denied. He scored in spurts and had big baskets on put-backs.
“I knew the refs were going to call it close after that, so I just tried to get aggressive,” he said. “I just wanted to win the game. We put Philly behind us, but we all wanted to win.”
Said Hornets coach Monty Williams: “Anthony has an edge. He’s a nice kid but won’t let you push him around. He went on a tear after that, and that’s big time for a a kid 19 to have that kind of moxy.
“It’s good to see our guys rally around each other and to keep their poise and not let it linger.”
Davis was backed by forward Ryan Anderson, who scored team-high 25 points, hitting several big 3-point shots, and backup point guard Brian Roberts, who got the Hornets (3-2) started early and put the finishing touches on the victory with a 3-pointer with 1:13 left that made the score 104-94.
Roberts scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and had eight assists.
Williams said the key to the victory was the team’s ball-handling. After turning the ball over 24 times against Philadelphia on Wednesday, the Hornets had just nine against the Bobcats, with point guard Greivis Vasquez, who also had eight assists, and Roberts committing just one each.
The Hornets shot a season-high 51.8 percent from the field. The Bobcats (1-3) shot 48.2. Ben Gordon, combining with second-year guard Kemba Walker for a high-potent backcourt, scored a game-high 34.
“We just couldn’t get enough stops,” said Gordon, who shot 14-of-21 from the field and was 3-of-6 on 3-point attempts. “They’re a good defensive team, but they got it going tonight. We just have to keep working.”
Already having gotten started after a confrontation with Mullens in the first half. Davis still had it going in the third quarter. He scored on four consecutive possessions, taking the Hornets from a 61-58 lead to 70-58 with 5:42 left in the quarter.
The Hornets had an anxious moment early in the fourth quarter when Davis seemed dazed by a blow to the face, reminiscent of the one that caused the concussion. He was taken out of the game but returned later to help the Hornets close things out for their second home victory of the season.
The Bobcats closed to 95-90 with 4:01 left on a 3-pointer by Mullens, but Al-Farouq Aminu then tipped in a miss by Davis, and the Hornets pulled away for good. With 1:49 showing, Aminu got a pass from Vasquez and slammed emphatically for a 101-92 lead.
Aminu had a solid all-around game with 14 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals and solid defense.
Things got heated early on. The Hornets had ridden the momentum created by Roberts late in the first quarter and went on an 8-2 burst to take a 32-23 lead two minutes into the second quarter, getting two strong drives by rookie guard Austin Rivers.
But the Bobcats again fought back. Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions combined for 10 consecutive Charlotte points in a four-minute span, closing the Bobcats to within 36-33.
But Anderson stepped up for New Orleans. He hit two 3s around one by Gordon to stem the tide. Roberts sank a free throw-line jumper, and it was 50-42. Tempers flared with 2:58 showing when Davis rebounded a missed free throw by Bismack Biyombo over Mullens. The two pushed and shoved heading up court and ultimately had to be separated.
A flagrant 1 foul was assessed against Mullens, and Davis received a technical. That seemed to incite Davis, who went right at Mullens, scoring a layup and then on a baseline jumper.
The Hornets ended the half with a big break with Roger Mason was fouled by Biyombo while attempting a 3-point shot with 10 seconds left. Mason made all three, and New Orleans went into the locker room with a 59-49 lead.
Roberts came in and gave the Hornets a spark near the end of of the first quarter. The quarter was tight the whole way, with the largest lead being the Hornets at 6-2 just three minutes into the game. The lead stayed between one and two points for the most part.
However, Roberts entered for Vasquez, and with 2:27 remaining and drove left to the basket against Gordon and was fouled. He made one free throw for an 18-15 lead.
Sessions then leaped high for a layin in the lane over Roberts. But Roberts answered with a jump shot.
Gordon pulled Charlotte to 22-21 with 23.1 with a layup. Undaunted, Roberts held the ball until 10 seconds remained, then dribbled right and got free on a pick by Anderson and sank a 16-footer, and the Hornets lead 24-21 at the end of one.
The Hornets play again Wednesday at Houston.