NEW ORLEANS — It was a familiar scene at New Orleans Arena.
The opponent hit the 100-point mark, winning the game by a comfortable margin. There was a third-quarter meltdown, and a team struggled against defensive pressure and just couldn’t match the overall intensity of the victor. And there was another loss in a stretch of losses.
Except this time, none of that applied to the Hornets. On Monday night against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Hornets got down and dirty defensively and forced the issue with its frontcourt in taking a much-needed and emphatic 102-81 triumph.
Power forward Ryan Anderson, again starting in place of injured rookie Anthony Davis, did more hard-hat posting up along the baseline instead of his usual 3-point torching and scored 22 points. Center Robin Lopez, in a rare offensive outburst, scored 21 points.
The Hornets (5-11), in the middle of a stretch of games against high-caliber foes, notched just their second victory in 11 games and won at home for the first time since Nov. 9 against Charlotte.
“The first team talked about being very aggressive from the outset on both ends of the floor, and we did that,” Lopez said. “We need to enjoy this win, but we have to get back to working hard at practice because we have a lot of tough games.”
The Hornets shot 52.4 percent, but most impressively committed just eight turnovers, a season-low. Six Hornets scored in double figures, including three reserve players: backup center Jason Smith with 12, and forward Lance Thomas and point guard Brian Roberts, who each had 10.
Starting point guard Greivis Vasquez had 11 points and nine assists but ran the Hornets’ pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop plays perhaps more effectively than they’ve been run all season.
Led by Lopez, the Hornets outscored Milwaukee (8-8) 48-34 in the lane.
“We usually don’t give up a lot of points in the paint,” Skiles said. “(The Hornets) weren’t posting us, but our pick-and-roll defense hasn’t been good lately.”
The loss was the sixth in eight games for the Bucks, who beat the Hornets 117-113 on Nov. 17 in Milwaukee, and came after an encouraging win against Boston.
Skiles can look at the third quarter. New Orleans shot 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) and held the Bucks to 6-of-18 (33.3 percent).
With the score 60-60 midway of the third, Lopez got going. On successive trips, he muscled in on Ekpe Udoh for a three-point play, blocked a drive by guard Monta Ellis, then scored on a roll pass from Vasquez, sank a baseline jumper and retrieved a loose ball and scored. That carried New Orleans to a 71-60 lead at the 4:16 mark.
Anderson kept the Bucks at bay. Milwaukee had closed to 71-65, but in a 32-second span, Anderson made three consecutive shots from the baseline against tight defense. That enabled New Orleans to lead 77-67 at the end of the third.
In the fourth, the bench didn’t let up. Smith sank a jumper and scored on a putback. Thomas played tough, physical defense, then tipped in a miss by Smith. Roberts was torched on a shot-clock-beating 3-pointer off the glass that Jennings was very fortunate to make. But Roberts answered right back, pulling up for a jumper in the lane, then hitting a floater that pushed the lead to 89-72 at the 5:54 mark.