The New Orleans Hornets lost to the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night at the New Orleans Arena, 96-93. The Hornets led by 10 points with 8:31 left in the game, but lost control of the game.
New Orleans shooters Brian Roberts and Ryan Anderson scored a combined 8 points in 20 seconds as they tried to catch L.A. as time wound down, fouling the Clippers after every score in an attempt to stop the clock and catch up with a free throw miss. However, L.A. point guard Chris Paul ended up at the line for all the free throw shots, sinking a perfect 6-6 from the charity stripe to keep the Bees at bay.
After being outscored 23-14 in the third, The Clippers dominated the fourth quarter, scoring a season-high 39 points in the final period, with Paul scoring 10 of his 17 total points in the fourth. They finally wrested the lead from the Hornets, 86-85, as Matt Barnes connected on two free throws with 1:32 left to play. Barnes scored a double-double off the bench tonight, with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
The Clippers’ subs scored a total 47 points tonight. Jamal Crawford put up 15 points, and Eric Bledsoe had nine.
“You can look at two things: our free throws and the fourth quarter,” said Hornets guard Roger Mason after the game when asked why New Orleans lost. “We gave up thirty-nine points [in the fourth]. We played great defense throughout the game, but when you give up that many points and you don’t hit your free throws, you don’t give yourself a chance to win.”
The Hornets were 17-for-32 from the free throw line tonight.
“I would have liked to have gotten the win, but I think everyone competed tonight,” said Hornets guard Brian Roberts. “The free throws and the fourth quarter is something we can’t do against a team like that. We need to be able to finish a game strong, and we couldn’t do that tonight.”
Roberts, a rookie, finished the game strong — he had his second career double-double tonight with 15 points and 11 assists.
The Hornets defense looked sluggish in the first quarter, and the Clippers scored their first three buckets off of aggressive, easy dunks inside the paint. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan hammered home the first three dunks before New Orleans was able to answer. The Hornets finally began to build momentum towards the end of the first, and ended the period ahead by one, 25-24.
Both teams kept pace in the second quarter, a back-and-forth match that was lackluster at best. New Orleans shot 35% from the field, while L.A shot 33%. Both teams were hampered by offensive fouls and were unable to generate much offense before the break. The teams only scored 34 points combined in the second quarter.
The Hornets came out strong after halftime behind the efforts of point guard Eric Gordon. He scored the go-ahead points three separate times in the third quarter as the two teams battled back-and-forth. At the end of the quarter the Hornets led, 63-57.
New Orleans extended their lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter before slowly giving ground. The Clippers went on a 7-1 run late, bringing the lead within one possession, 81-79, with 3:33 left in the game. Barnes was fouled by Al-Farouq Aminu, he made both his free-throws, and L.A was ahead by one point, 86-85.
Paul extended the lead, 88-85, with a stutter-step on Anderson, followed by a jump shot from the top of the key. Roberts was blocked on the next Hornets scoring attempt, and the ball was recovered by Paul, who streaked down the court through the defense for a reverse lay-up. He missed but the ball was rocketed home with a put-back slam by Bledsoe, making it 90-85 before the back-and-forth heroics in the final minute of the game.
With the win the Clippers improve their record to 53-26 as they battle to hold on to fourth place in the Western Conference.
The Hornets (27-53) play their final home game of the season on Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks.
This will also be the last home game the organization will play as the Hornets — they will return to the New Orleans Arena next season rebranded as the Pelicans.