NEW ORLEANS — For the second consecutive game, the New Orleans Hornets are playing a team they beat on the road this season.
Coming off Friday night’s down-to-the-wire home victory over the Detroit Pistons, the Hornets’ first game after losing injured key reserve Jason Smith for the season, they take on the Orlando Magic at 7 p.m. Monday at New Orleans Arena.
On Dec. 26 in Orlando, the Hornets won 97-94 against the Magic, a rebuilding team much like themselves.
“We (both) have young guys mixed with some veterans, injuries, probably looking at two teams playing for the future and yet still trying to win games,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
The Magic (16-42) is without former LSU standout Glen Davis, its starting power forward, who underwent surgery Feb. 1 after his left foot was fractured in a game against New York on Jan. 30. He is not expected to miss the rest of the season.
Veteran forward Hedo Turkoglu was suspended for 20 games Feb. 13 for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy and won’t return until March 27. And, like Hornets guard Eric Gordon, Magic point guard Jameer Nelson has been bothered by a patella injury and may not play Monday.
The Hornets (21-39) have been without rookie starting power forward Anthony Davis the past two games with a sprained left shoulder, but he may play Monday. Williams said it will be a game-time decision. However, at practice Sunday, Davis was moving his left arm well and taking shots.
During Friday’s shoot-around before the Pistons game, Davis didn’t even lift the arm when retrieving teammates’ missed shots, and he did no shooting. Just before the game, the shoulder was wrapped in ice, and Williams said Davis was taking medication to relieve swelling.
“He didn’t do any contact (Sunday), but he is a lot better,” Williams said. “We’ll find out (Monday). We did put him through a lot from a strenuous standpoint, but he didn’t do a lot from a contact standpoint.”
Davis had 12 points, 11 rebounds, two blocked shots, two steals and two assists in the Hornets and Magic’s first meeting. However, the victory was paced by impressive performances by point guard Greivis Vasquez and center Robin Lopez.
Vasquez, lifting the Hornets with his energy, had a season-high 27 points, with eight assists and six rebounds, and played 41 minutes, 27 seconds. He sank a floater in the lane in the waning seconds to give the Hornets the victory as they ended a season-high 11-game losing streak.
Lopez had a season-high 29 points, going 9-of-10 from the field and 11-of-12 from the free-throw line. It was only the third time in three seasons a player scored as many as 29 points while missing no more than two shots from the field and line combined. Lopez also blocked three shots.
In that game, Magic center Nikola Vucevic also reached a career-high, with 19 points and had nine rebounds. This season, his second in the league, he is averaging 12.1 points and 11.4 rebounds, which rank fourth in the league. And since Dec. 1, he has grabbed more rebounds than any player in the league.
He has been impressive against top competition. He had an eye-popping game against the Miami Heat in a 112-110 overtime loss on New Year’s Eve, getting 20 points and 29 rebounds, breaking by one the franchise mark set by Shaquille O’Neal. Vucevic had 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots against the Lakers and Dwight Howard on Dec. 2, as the Magic won 113-103 in Los Angeles.
“Vucevic has improved,” Williams said. “You don’t just come out of nowhere and average 11 rebounds. That’s just unheard of. He shoots the ball well. ... I think he’s going to be really good.”
The New Orleans Hornets signed center Henry Sims to a 10-day contract Sunday as they try to help offset the loss of Jason Smith to a shoulder injury. Smith, who had played with a torn right labrum since Dec. 28, will have surgery this week. Sims, 6-feet-10, 245 pounds, played at Georgetown with New Orleans native Greg Monroe. Sims was selected an NBA Development League All-Star this season, his first in the league, and averaged 17.1 points and 9.0 rebounds with the Erie (Pa.) BayHawks.