NEW ORLEANS — The Hornets all but had victory in their grasp, but it slipped away.
“Taken away” might be another way to look at it — and by someone familiar.
Point guard Jarrett Jack, who played the past two seasons with the Hornets, made a key steal and scored seven of his 25 points down the stretch, and the Hornets fell to the Golden State Warriors 116-112 on Saturday night at New Orleans Arena.
It was New Orleans’ second loss in its past eight games.
Golden State had lost three in a row and was without starting power forward David Lee, who sprained his left ankle in a loss at San Antonio on Friday night.
Jack also had 12 assists, and Carl Landry, who also played for the Hornets last season but was not re-signed, had 11 points and 11 rebounds.
There was no doubt the victory was sweet in their return.
“I have the same mentality every night when we play, whether it’s the Hornets, the Lakers or the Bobcats,” Jack said. “Even though on my way here, my iPod (played) — even though I had it on shuffle — a James Brown song ‘The Big Payback.’ That was kind of weird. But it’s a great song, though.”
New Orleans led 110-108 with 55 seconds left before Eric Gordon attempted a cross-court pass to Greivis Vasquez. The ball was intercepted by Jack, who was fouled trying to go in for a layup. He sank two free throws to tie the score.
That was the start of a triumphant finish for Jack, who scored on a floater with 31.8 seconds left and made two free throws that gave the Warriors a 115-110 lead with 22 seconds to go.
The loss was one the Hornets had a hard time handling after the game. New Orleans had season highs of 57 percent shooting and 45 field goals; it scored 112 points, tops this season for a home game. But it shot just 13-of-23 on free throws and allowed more than 30 points in the first, second and fourth quarters.
Golden State, led by Klay Thompson, who scored 29 points and made five of seven 3-point shots, hit 10 of 22 from behind the arc against the Hornets, who had played excellent defense during their recent 6-1 streak.
“We kind of lost our identity tonight,” coach Monty Williams said. “We gave up 116 points to an undermanned team, we gave up three 30-point quarters, we had 16 turnovers and we couldn’t make a free throw. We had some costly turnovers.”
The Hornets led 102-95 with 7:19 left after consecutive baskets by Austin Rivers. But guard Stephen Curry fueled a 9-2 run with seven points, including a 3-pointer with 5:10 left that gave Golden State the lead at 104-102.
Thompson sank one 30 seconds later for a 107-104 lead.
The Hornets scored five straight points, with Gordon hitting a jumper, then two free throws after a big strip, and New Orleans led 109-108 with 1:38 left. A free throw by Anthony Davis gave the Hornets their final two-point lead with 1:22 left.
With a renewed focus on defense, the Hornets had overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to take an 89-85 lead at the end of the third quarter. The surge began with the Hornets scoring the first eight points of the third.
More important, they had cooled off the Warriors. Once shooting better than 60 percent, they were down to 53.3 while the Hornets surged to 62.3.
The Warriors took a 67-57 halftime lead behind 71 percent shooting (12-of-17) in the second quarter, keyed by the scorching hand of Thompson, who scored 24 points on 10-of-13 shooting.
The Hornets shot 60 percent in the half but found themselves trailing to a team that shot 61.4, including 61.5 (8-of-13) on 3s.