NEW ORLEANS — The Hornets had lost twice to the San Antonio Spurs this season but appeared confident heading into Monday night’s game at New Orleans Arena.
The difference this time was that the Spurs were meeting the Hornets with Eric Gordon in the lineup, said point guard Greivis Vasquez, who added there would be payback.
Payback it was, as the Hornets took a well-earned 95-88 victory against one of the NBA’s hottest teams, playing with uncommon hunger, energy and confidence.
Gordon scored 24 points and sank several big shots. And his aggressiveness and that of Vasquez, who had 14 points and 11 assists, seemed to drive the Hornets (9-25). Rookie power forward Anthony Davis had 17 points and nine rebounds, and he and small forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who had a game-high 10 rebounds, provided energy and all-around play nearly from the outset.
“There are games where we played well and didn’t win the game,” coach Monty Williams said, his team winning the first of a three-game homestand. “Tonight, we collectively played hard for 48 minutes. Even when they made a run, it … scared you a bit, but you knew that with Eric and Greivis playing that way, you had a chance to pull out of it.”
The victory was the third in four games with Gordon in the lineup, the third in five since he rejoined the team. The Spurs (27-10), who were led by Manu Ginobili’s 21 points, had won eight of nine coming in and were tied for the most victories in the league.
The Hornets secured the win by holding off the battle-tested Spurs in the fourth quarter. New Orleans led after every quarter but had squandered late leads and opportunities countless times before. Not this time.
San Antonio closed within 78-75 before Gordon made some big shots. He sank long jump shots on three consecutive possessions for an 84-77 lead at the 5:59 mark. The Hornets took a commanding 90-79 lead at 2:33 after Gordon sank a jumper and Vasquez stole the ball and drove for a basket.
“That’s one of the key things I do best when it comes to late-game situations or if anything gets tough,” Gordon said. “I like to take (opponents) one-on-one, and I’m able to get a good shot. I look forward to that.”
Vasquez said he had promised victory only partly because he felt confident.
“We were tired of losing and tired of losing to those guys,” Vasquez said after the Hornets ended a six-game losing streak against San Antonio.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich seemed impressed by the big win.
“We played a well-coached, aggressive, well-executing team,” he said. “They did a great job on both ends of the court. They just whipped us.
“They have been playing all year undermanned and injured. Now they are being rewarded for keeping the faith and not getting down. I’m happy for them.”
The Hornets beat up the Spurs on the boards, outrebounding them 42-32. Getting 14 offensive rebounds, New Orleans scored 20 second-chance points to San Antonio’s 10, and the Hornets scored 46 points in the lane to the Spurs’ 34. The Hornets forced 19 turnovers and registered a season-high 12 steals.
The big key was that they avoided their season’s albatross. This time, there was no one-quarter meltdown. They outscored the Spurs 25-22 in the second quarter, and although New Orleans was outscored in the third, it was only 24-21.
The Hornets, who play Houston on Wednesday and Minnesota on Friday, outscored the Spurs in three of the four quarters.
The Hornets signed point guard Donald Sloan to a 10-day contract. Sloan recently played two games with the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League and averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He played 20 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers before being waived on Christmas Day.
Sloan, who was born in Shreveport but grew up in Dallas, appeared in three games with the Hornets last season before being waived.