Eric Gordon scored 24 points and dished out 7 assists in his season debut, leading the New Orleans Hornets to a 98-95 victory against the Bobcats in Charlotte.
Gordon, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since last season, came off the bench in his first game back and played for almost 25 minutes. His influence was palpable in the final quarter, and he created isolation scoring for himself and opportunities for his teammates.
This was the first time this season that the Hornets had a full complement of players.
With 7:35 left in the 4th, Gordon drove into a group of Bobcats and laid-in a left-hander to bring the Hornets within two, 79-77. He passed out assists during the next two possessions, the first to Greivis Vasquez for the tying lay-up, and the next to Ryan Anderson for the go-ahead three-pointer. Gordon’s scoring threat drew the Charlotte defense, leaving the perimeter shooter open.
The Hornets held off the Bobcats in the final minutes as Anderson and Roger Mason, Jr. knocked down back-to-back three-points (both assisted by Gordon). Charlotte, down by five, 96-91, with only 27.8 seconds left to play, began to foul. Gordon was sent to the line two times at the end of the game, and he scored the last three points (out of four attempts) for the Hornets. New Orleans’ defense sealed the victory by preventing two desperate three-point attempts in the Bobcats’ final possession.
The Hornets were down as many as 21 points after a frustrating first half. Before the break, the Bobcats dominated the Bees in transition, scoring 21 fast break points. New Orleans was unable to defend the paint and yielded 38 points under the rim in the first two quarters.
After the half, the Hornets surged back, outscoring the Bobcats 33-16 in the 3rd quarter.
Three Hornets joined Gordon in scoring double digits tonight. Anderson scored 19 points and Greivis Vasquez contributed 16 points. Roger Mason, Jr. put-up 13 points, and he shot 4-5 from three-point range.
Both Anthony Davis and Robin Lopez scored 8 points, and combined for 17 rebounds.
The impact of Eric Gordon’s return is fundamentally evident in the box score, but his presence also opens up new opportunities for overall team dynamics — the most basic involving Anderson, who has taken on the role of New Orleans’ go-to scorer. The forward can now rely on Gordon to pull defenders, giving him cleaner looks to supplement his already deadly stroke.
The Hornets (7-23) will host the Atlanta Hawks (19-9) on New Year’s Day. New Orleans has won two of its last three games.