NEW ORLEANS — Coach Monty Williams said he doesn’t think like that, and it doesn’t enter into the equation.
But the New Orleans Hornets can get a measure of revenge Tuesday by beating the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Lakers’ loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday dropped them to ninth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Utah.
A victory by the Hornets would be a big blow to the Lakers’ chances of landing that eighth and final playoff berth.
“We don’t think anything like that,” Williams said of playing the spoiler role. “We want to win because it’s the next game, and we want to finish the season strong.”
That’s certainly motivation, and add to it that the players know their performance down the stretch could play a part in whether they remain with the team.
But there’s another reason to get the Hornets’ juices flowing. In their 108-102 victory March 6 in the New Orleans Arena, the Lakers came back from a 25-point deficit and ended the game on a 20-0 run.
It was an embarrassing loss on a couple of fronts. First, there’s the magnitude of the comeback. Then there was the way Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant took over: In the second half, he scored 25 of his 42 points — including 13 in the final 8 minutes, 48 seconds. And then there was the crowd’s response — how a large number of Lakers fans turned the Arena into a Crescent City version of the Staples Center.
Finally, a memorable piece of embarrassment came at game’s end. With 25.5 seconds left, the Lakers were clinging to a 104-102 lead but were set to inbound the ball on the Hornets’ end of the court. But the Lakers lined up as if they were setting up for a play on their end of the floor. The Hornets seemed to defend it that way, and Bryant took off for the other end, received a long pass and dunked with 23.6 seconds to go, sealing the outcome.
Also memorable from that game was rookie power forward Anthony Davis only playing eight minutes in the second half — and only about five seconds of the fourth quarter. Williams said he wanted to have 3-point shooter Ryan Anderson, also a power forward, in the game for scoring and to help the team’s spacing. Playing both was not an option.
“I was not going to have (Williams) guarding (Lakers center) Dwight Howard,” Williams said.
Davis scored a team-high 20 points in Sunday’s 95-92 win at Phoenix. He had 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks in Friday’s 95-83 loss at Utah.
Throughout his rookie season, Davis has played well in games in which it seemed he had a point to prove to Williams — such as that he should not have been kept on the bench against the Lakers. Asked about it, Davis shrugged, seeming not to harbor any ill feelings.
“It was Coach’s decision,” he said. “Coach is trying to do what’s best to help the team win. So, I didn’t take it as anything personal.”
Since the victory over the Hornets, the Lakers are 9-6 but lost at lowly Phoenix and to Washington at home. They have gone 5-1 at home and 4-5 on the road.
A win Tuesday would keep alive the Hornets’ hopes of a winning road trip. New Orleans is 1-2 with two games left.
The Hornets follow Tuesday’s game with a Wednesday visit to the Sacramento Kings, against whom New Orleans is 2-0 this season.
The game will be a happy homecoming for Anderson, a Sacramento native, after the city council approved financing to build a new arena. That move is expected to let Sacramento keep the team.
“I was absolutely thrilled by the news,” said Anderson, who grew up a Kings fans. “I just remember the days when they were winning (in the early 2000s), with Chris Webber and Vlade Divac and all the guys. Even though the didn’t get to the NBA Finals, it was a thrilling time.”
Anderson comes in perhaps having broken out of slump. He had 17 points and 10 rebounds against the Suns after scoring four points against Utah and three last Wednesday against Golden State to start this road trip, the last swing of the season.
In the two games before Phoenix, he shot a combined 1-of-18, including 1-of-8 on 3s.