The Hornets have come out of the All-Star break looking like a team determined to take better advantage of teams with losing records than they did prior to the break.
They finally figured out how to beat the worst team in the Western Conference when they topped the Timberwolves, 95-81, Friday night in Minneapolis. That was their first win against the Timberwolves in three tries this season.
That victory gave the Hornets a 2-0 record after the break. Their first win came against the team with the third-worst record in the West when they beat the Clippers, 98-87, on Wednesday.
The Hornets, who have two losses against the Warriors and one each against the Clippers, the Kings, Nets, Pistons and Pacers, play their next two games against two more teams with losing records. They play host to the Rockets on Sunday and visit the Raptors on Tuesday. New Orleans is 35-25.
The Hornets have done a much better job of holding down the scoring of their last two opponents (an average of 84 points) than they did in their nine losses to teams with losing records and in losing nine of 11 going into the All-Star break.
They are allowing less than 93 points per game for the season, but in their nine losses to teams with losing records, they gave up an average of 104 points, yielding 113 and 104 in their losses to the Timberwolves, which came by 15 and 12 points. In their last 11 games before the break, the Hornets gave up an average of 101 points.
"We're just helping each other out; recently we kind of went away from that," forward Trevor Ariza said. "Everybody was pretty much isolating us. We gave them too much room to work. That's not what we do. We're a help team. That's what we're trying to get back to."
The Hornets are 15-0 when holding teams to 86 or fewer points and 22-1 when holding teams below 90 points.
"It means helping each other, not leaving guys on islands and making them play one-on-one defensively against certain guys," guard Chris Paul said. "It's a collective effort. That's what we weren't doing before the break."
HORNETS 95, TIMBERWOLVES 81: The Hornets used a fast start offensively to grab the lead, then a stifling defense to assume command. They jumped to a 35-26 lead after one quarter, then held the Timberwolves to a combined 35 points in the second and third quarters as they took an 18-point lead into the fourth quarter and coasted.
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