Hornets hope to build on win over Spurs

WESTWEGO — Even when the New Orleans Hornets have performed well, coach Monty Williams has always pointed out what they need to do better to become a better team.

There was none of that after Tuesday’s practice at the Alario Center. Not that his team played a perfect game Monday in a big victory against San Antonio. However, Williams was so impressed with the effort and the result, he said he would like to see it carry over into Wednesday night’s game against the Houston Rockets (21-14) at New Orleans Arena.

“I’ve been trying to figure out that formula of not getting what we got the previous game, but how to get more because you have to make up for the lack of experience,” he said.

“When you look at the film, you see so many areas that you can help the guys get better, but the effort was there from everybody, and that’s how we have to play.”

It marked the first time since Nov. 3 the Hornets (9-25) had gotten victories in consecutive games and was the first win at home since Dec. 3 against Milwaukee.

Wednesday’s game is an opportunity for New Orleans to win three in a row for the first time since April of last season, when it won four straight but with a whole cast of different players.

Against San Antonio, the Hornets faced the team that is second in the league in scoring. On Wednesday, the Hornets face the team that is first. Houston is averaging 106.2 point per game.

The Hornets saw first hand in the teams’ Jan. 2 game that the Rockets not only can score but can heat up quickly. The Rockets beat the Hornets 104-92 at Houston, holding off New Orleans by scoring 30 points in the fourth quarter.

Uppermost on Williams’ mind heading into Wednesday night’s game is that the Rockets outscored the Hornets 60-28 in the lane, offsetting 5-of-24 shooting on 3-point attempts.

“They were in our paint all night long, that’s guards, big men, in transition,” he said. “We didn’t do a good job of getting back and keeping them out of our paint. The biggest thing is just keeping those guards out of our paint, because it gives them everything.”

Houston’s guards, particularly James Harden, can make 3-pointers, but their drives open up opportunities for offensive rebounding, which can be a nightmare. Harden had 31 points and seven assists the last time against the Hornets on his way to being selected Western Conference Player of the Week (games played Dec. 31-Jan. 6) for the second time this season.

Hornets guard Eric Gordon sat out against Houston because it was the second of back-to-back games, and he’d just returned from missing 29 games because of a patella disorder and bone bruise.

Of course, Gordon will play Wednesday. The Hornets are 3-1 in games in which he has played, losing only to Atlanta at the Arena since he’s been back. His matchup against Harden — who is averaging 26.4 points, fifth in the league — promises to be intriguing, given their status as young, excellent guards and their roles as big-gun scorers on their teams.

Gordon said he’s quite familiar with Harden from previous NBA matchups.

“I’m going to see how many jump shots he’s gonna make,” Gordon said. “He mixes it up a lot. He likes to go to the basket, create fouls. As long as we crowd him, make sure he doesn’t get in the lane so much, I think we’ll be overall fine with him.”

Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers, the Rockets had won four in a row behind their prolific scoring. However, Houston has lost 11 consecutive road games to Southwest Division teams.

“They are a different team, and they’ve been playing very well lately,” said Gordon, who is averaging 18.3 points per game. “They’re more of an up-and-down (the court) team, play fast; they’re more of an offensive team.

“Our plan is to do like we did (Monday): play very well on both ends. And we definitely need to slow them down scoringwise.”