NEW ORLEANS — It wasn’t that cold in New Orleans on Wednesday night, certainly nowhere near as frigid as it was in New Orleans Arena for the New Orleans Hornets in their game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
In a game featuring two defensive-minded teams fraught with injuries and struggling to score in any way, the 76ers put a strangle hold on the Hornets, taking a 77-62 victory.
“It’s easy to talk about not making shots,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said, “but the 76ers played good defense. (Point guard) Jrue Holiday was all over us tonight.
“We just didn’t have enough guys in position to score, and that falls on me.”
The 62 points are a regular-season franchise low. The previous low had been 65 points twice, the last time in 2003 at Boston. The Hornets, who were without rookies Anthony Davis (concussion symptoms) and Austin Rivers (sprained index finger) and guard Eric Gordon (sore knee), shot 33.3 percent and committed 24 turnovers.
The Hornets, who made just 23 of 69 shots, were particularly inept in the second half, when they sank just nine of 32.
This one got away from the Hornets (2-2) early in the second half and got worse, as New Orleans lugged its way to 25 second-half points, after scoring just 37 in the first half.
Holiday led a more determined defensive effort of pressuring the ball on the perimeter.
“We just got more aggressive, showed them bodies,” said Holiday, who also had 14 points and 12 assists, as Philadelphia (2-2) got it going and took an easy win after two one-sided losses to the New York Knicks.
“We got up on them and forced them to start their offense outside the 3-point line. They just couldn’t get into their offense.”
So effective were the 76ers that the Hornets did not have a double-figure scorer until Al-Farouq Aminu drove to the basket with 2:42 left in the game. By that time, the score was 77-56, and the crowd had long started heading for the parking lot.
Philadelphia shot just 41.7 percent from the field, but Evan Turner joined Holiday for scoring honors with 14 points, leading five Sixers in double figures.
Holiday said patience was the key.
“They packed the lane in the first half,” said Holiday, who had eight assists in the first half but also six of his team’s 14 turnovers. “We let the game come to us a lot more in the second half.”
The Hornets followed a bad first half with a worse third quarter, scoring just 10 points. That enabled Philadelphia to take control, leading 57-47 at the end of the quarter. Philadelphia continued to lean on its defense but had enough in the tank offensively to score 21 points.
Before the game, Philadelphia coach Doug Collins said he was concerned about Hornets forward Ryan Anderson, who started his second consecutive game in place of Davis. Anderson, who has strung together strong performances in the early season, had been a nemesis to the 76ers last year, Collins said. However, he credited forward Thaddeus Young’s defense against Anderson, who scored nine points on 3-of-10 shooting, including 1-of-6 on 3-point tries, his forte’.
“We know he’s a big part of their offense because he’s a very good shooter; he shoots a lot of 3s,” said Young, who had 12 points and, like Anderson, 10 rebounds. “Definitely a big part of what we tried to do defensively was take him out of the game. We wanted to run him off shots and make him dribble into big guys and make him finish at the basket instead of killing us with 3-point shots.”
After the Hornets eeked out a one-point halftime lead, Philadelphia began the third quarter with renewed vigor. The 76ers held the Hornets without a basket for 4 minutes, 15 seconds, going on a 10-0 run for a 46-37 lead at 9:33. Anderson finally hit a shot for the Hornets at 7:45.
Anderson later hit his lone 3-pointer, which pulled New Orleans to 51-46, but the Sixers came up with a big play as Holiday drove, scored and was fouled for a 53-46 lead at 3:03. He missed the free throw, but Spencer Hawes tipped it in for a 55-46 margin, and Philadelphia was on its way.
In the second quarter, it appeared the Hornets were on their way to distancing themselves from the Sixers. Aminu got a steal that resulted in two free throws and a 21-16 lead less than a minute into the quarter.
However, Philadelphia battled back to tie the score at 23 on a 3-pointer by Royal Ivey at 9:16.
Anderson rebounded the ball and was fouled on the put-back attempt after Aminu drove but missed a contested shot in the lane. Anderson’s two free throws gave New Orleans a 37-34 lead with 1:36 showing. New Orleans’ defense, including a late steal by Aminu, gave it opportunities to stretch the lead after that, but three possessions produced no points.
Philadelphia, trailing 37-36 with 9.2 seconds left after a Hornets shot-clock violation, had a chance to make the most of its struggles with a halftime lead, but Nick Young missed a wide open 3-point attempt at the buzzer after Holiday drove and sucked in the Hornets’ defense.
Although the Hornets shot just 37.8 percent to Philadelphia’s 43.6, New Orleans was 8-of-8 on free throws.
The start of the game was an omen of things to come, as the Hornets failed to score of 11 of their first 12 trips up court. Still, they led 19-16 at the end of the first quarter.
The loss followed two impressive wins by the Hornets, including a road win over the weekend at Chicago.