NEW ORLEANS — Anthony Davis went down, but the New Orleans Hornets showed that didn’t mean they were out.
A host of Hornets stepped up after Davis left the game early in the second quarter, fighting until the bitter end against the Utah Jazz on Friday night at New Orleans Arena.
With their effort providing a chance at victory at the end, point guard Greivis Vasquez came through. He drove for a basket with 1.3 seconds left, lifting the Hornets to their first victory of the season, 88-86, after Davis left in the second quarter because of concern he may have gotten a concussion.
Davis appeared to have been hit in the head near the four-minute mark of the second half while setting a screen on the perimeter. He was taken out of the game and did not return.
After the game, the Hornets said Davis had a mild concussion, will undergo further tests in New Orleans and will not accompany the team to Chicago, his hometown, for tonight’s game.
The winning play began with the score tied at 86 with 7.1 seconds left. The Hornets (1-1) inbounded the ball to Vasquez, and Utah guard Gordon Hayward came up to play close defense. Vasquez drove hard right, got around Hayward, and banked a one-handed shot off the glass from about five feet.
Lopez said it was the first game-winning shot of his NBA career.
“Coach told me he wanted me to make this shot for him,” said Vasquez. “We had Ryan (Anderson) at the top (of the 3-point line), and he’s a really good shooter, and they couldn’t pull off him.”
Williams said there was also another element to the play.
“Greivis is really good going to his right,” Williams said. “We put a shooter in the corner to open things up for him.”
The winning play capped a second consecutive solid performance by Vasquez, who had 13 points, 10 assists and just three turnovers. He wasn’t alone.
Anderson scored 19 points, and his three 3-pointers in the first half helped keep the Hornets close. However, his biggest shot came with 32.7 seconds left and helped set the stage for Vasquez. Anderson sank his fifth 3-pointer of the game from the right corner, giving New Orleans an 84-83 lead.
After Roger Mason sank two free throws with 16.3 seconds left, Millsaps made a 3-pointer with 7.1 seconds showing that tied the score.
Robin Lopez had a yeoman’s effort in getting 19 points and seven rebounds, repeatedly fighting underneath against the bullish Jazz duo of Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors. From 5:38 of the fourth quarter to the 2:34 mark, Lopez made three big plays that helped the Hornets stay with the Jazz.
He had a put-back of driving miss by Vasquez for a 77-75 lead and made a hook shot that put the Hornets up 79-77 in a game with 23 lead changes and 10 ties. And, at 2:34, he blocked Jefferson’s shot underneath when the running Jazz became determined to force the issue in the lane.
“I thought Robin Lopez’s defense was incredible,” Williams said.
And small forward Al-Farouq Aminu again was solid with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, eight rebounds and two steals.
“I thought we did a good job of staying together tonight,” Vasquez said.
Vasquez said he and his teammates didn’t know what happened to Davis, just that he’d come out of the game and when they went into the locker room at halftime, Davis appeared to be getting treatment. He said he has learned to be prepared for the unexpected with the Hornets, who had a rash of injuries last year, including Eric Gordon playing just nine games. Davis is out now injured.
“After last year, I mean this is the NBA,” Vasquez said. “One guy goes down, another guy has to step up. That’s what we did tonight.”
Vasquez said it was a big victory for a young team after losing a close game to San Antonio in Wednesday’s season opener and with a road game at Chicago on Saturday.
“This has to help our confidence,” he said. “We had been losing games in the last two minutes (including last season). Teams think they can be physical with us because we are young. But we fight back.”
Davis had eight points and a game-high six rebounds when he left the game at 4:31 of the second quarter. He had made two impressive put-back dunks among his points.
Guard Randy Foye scored a game-high 20 points, making clutch shots down the stretch that helped keep the Jazz close.