NEW ORLEANS — This bad-ball madness had to stop at some point, and a game against the league’s worst defensive team was a good time for it to happen for the New Orleans Hornets.
Playing against the Sacramento Kings, who had lost seven consecutive road games and four in a row overall, the Hornets showed a renewed commitment to discipline while also playing with high-octane energy in a 110-95 victory Sunday at New Orleans Arena.
The win ended a three-game losing streak in which the Hornets looked out of sync, had poor defensive quarters and saw turnovers snatch defeat from victory.
“I think the difference was we came out and played great defense,” said rookie power forward Anthony Davis, who was active running the court and following up missed shots in scoring a game-high 20 points. “We came out very aggressive. If we keep doing that, we’ll be a hard team to beat. We can’t keep allowing teams to score 100 points.”
The Hornets (20-37) blocked nine shots, led by small forward Al-Farouq Aminu’s three. Center Robin Lopez and backup center/power power forward Jason Smith each had two.
Kings coach Keith Smart, a Baton Rouge native, said the Hornets’ defense at the rim was a key to their victory. The Kings (19-38) made 12 of 19 3-point shots, but Smart bemoaned his team’s missed twos.
“We must have missed 10 layups,” he said. “If we make half of those, it’s a different game.
“Between Aminu, Lopez, (Smith) and Davis, they are known shot-blockers, and they are going to come to penetration. You are either going to dunk the ball or you ought to be thinking drop-off passes for easy shots. And we kept challenging them.”
Meanwhile, led by Davis, the Hornets forced the issue inside on offense, scoring 62 points in the lane, the main reason they shot 50.6 percent (45-of-89) overall. New Orleans had six players in double figures: Davis, guard Eric Gordon and forward Ryan Anderson each with 17, Roger Mason with 13 and Greivis Vasquez and Lopez with 12 each.
Vasquez also had 13 assists and just one turnover.
“Coach (Monty Williams) stressed disciplined basketball,” Smith said. “We didn’t have many attempts at home run plays, and it made a difference.”
Leading 88-83 with 7:46 left in the game, the Hornets received a break and took advantage.
The Kings were assessed a technical foul for defensive three seconds. Mason made the free throw. Retaining the ball, the Hornets got the ball to Anderson.
After having driven around Kings starter Jason Thompson for a dunk, Anderson found himself guarded by quicker reserve James Johnson.
Anderson, posting up against Johnson, pump-faked, drew the foul, then scored. He made the free throw, giving the Hornets a four-point possession and a 92-83 lead.
Smith followed with a jumper from the corner after the Hornets got another stop, as the trip touched off a game-clinching 11-2 run that ended with a 3 by Anderson and a 100-85 lead.
That wasn’t the Hornets’ first outburst to gain control. After going into halftime by a 53-47 margin, they led just 61-60 early in the third quarter when things got interesting.
Davis, trailing on the break, caught an alley-oop pass from Gordon and dunked. After Gordon made two free throws, Aminu sank a 20-foot jump shot, then blocked a driving shot by Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans that resulted in a dunk by Gordon.
Davis got a rebound dunk of a miss by Gordon and Aminu dunked on the break, completing a 12-0 run, and the lead was 73-60.
The Kings charged back, with Evans, John Salmons and Baton Rouge native Marcus Thornton hitting consecutive 3s as part of an 11-0 run.
However, Vasquez drove three consecutive times to keep control for the Hornets, giving them a 79-73 lead at the end of the quarter. New Orleans had survived a quarter in which Sacramento shot 6-of-7 on 3s, five by Salmons.
He hit another 3 to start the fourth, but Anderson, Smith and Mason kept New Orleans ahead 88-80.