The Hornets are going back to the playoffs after a one-year absence, but there is still much to be decided in the final four games of the regular season.
They clinched their third playoff appearance in four years when they beat the Rockets, 101-93, Wednesday night in the New Orleans Arena to improve to 45-33. That moved them into sixth place in the Western Conference, but they could still finish anywhere from fifth to eighth.
"I told the guys that we have more work to do, so don't exhale," coach Monty Williams said. "If you're satisfied with this, you're setting yourself up for failure, big-time."
The Hornets, who were 37-45 a year ago, were not a popular preseason pick to make the playoffs. They began the season with a revamped roster and a rookie head coach.
"This team fought all year," guard Chris Paul said. "It's been a long time coming. Our coaches come in every day and believe in us and work hard for us. We have a lot of resilience and we never give up.
"It's a good feeling to know that we're in, but now it's about staying there. You hear people say it all the time -- you never want to back into the playoffs. We want to go full-steam ahead so we've got to keep building so when we get to the playoffs, there's no questions about what we're going to do."
The Hornets have four games remaining, beginning with a home game against the Suns on Friday.
"We've got to win," center Emeka Okafor said. "Depending on who wins and loses, things can juggle, so you can't really plan for anything. You've just got to play and see what happens after our last game."
HORNETS 101, ROCKETS 93: The Hornets had their worst defensive first quarter of the season, but rebounded with three exceptional defensive quarters. They gave up 38 points in the first quarter, the most they have allowed in a first quarter and tied for the most they have allowed in any quarter. The Hornets allowed seven second-chance points in the first quarter and none after that. They allowed the Rockets to make 8-of-16 three-pointers in the first half, but just 1-of-8 in the second. The score was tied six times in the fourth quarter before two free throws by Paul and a steal and lay-up by forward Trevor Ariza put them ahead for good with four minutes remaining.
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