A rowdy sellout crowd of 19,060 was disappointed Monday night in Los Angeles when the New Orleans Hornets force-fed the Clippers their fourth straight loss.
Both teams played a rugged and physical game, committing a combined 45 personal fouls. The Clippers were cited for two flagrant-1 fouls, the second by Matt Barnes toward the end of the third quarter when he shouldered Jason Smith in the sternum after Smith set a hard pick on Clippers guard Chris Paul.
Immediately after, while Smith was shooting the free-throws for the flagrant, Barnes continued to heckle both Smith and the referee, and was handed a technical foul for his behavior.
The tension never waned, and deep into the fourth quarter with 1:18 left to play, with the Hornets up 101-95, the Clippers desperately assaulted the rim from three-point range. Los Angeles racked up five bricks in 56 seconds as they tried to catch up, but the final score was 105-98 in front of a noticeably quieter and thinner crowd by game’s end.
New Orleans showed a well-rounded offensive front, with five of players contributing double digits. Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez, who scored 25 points, tied his career high scoring record set two games ago against Phoenix. Vasquez also doled out 10 assists and recorded his fourth double-double of the season. Ryan Anderson contributed 5 three-pointers for New Orleans for 17 points total, and Austin Rivers came off the bench Austin Rivers to find his stride from downtown, sinking three three-pointers. Rivers also passed out six assists.
Jason Smith is no stranger to flagrant fouls when the Clippers are concerned. Last year he received a flagrant-2, and was ejected and suspended for two games, when he hip checked Blake Griffin on a fast break, sending the 6-10 forward to the ground. Smith showed restraint this match-up, and got even on the stat line, by shooting an almost perfect 7-8 from the free-throw line. Overall he scored 17 points, two of which came right after sinking three free-throws (for the flagrant and the tech), when he drove with purpose straight down the lane past the smaller Barnes for the lay-up.
The Hornets defense rendered Blake Griffin obsolete. Averaging around 17 points and 11 rebounds per game, Griffin was kept to a career low four points and six rebounds, shooting only 1-9 from the field. Griffin fouled out late in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles forward Caron Butler, shooting 9-15, set a franchise record for most 3-pointers made in a game.
New Orleans still suffered turnover issues, handing the ball over 15 times. This marks the third straight game with Vasquez committing six or more himself (eight this last game).
Eric Gordon, who has spent the last few weeks in Los Angeles receiving physical therapy for his ailing right knee, was present on the Hornets bench, along with injured forward Anthony Davis. Gordon participated in all the team’s timeouts and interacted with his teammates on and off the court.
This win marked the end to a seven game losing streak for the Hornets, and they return home to the New Orleans Arena on Wednesday night to face the Utah Jazz, and a rematch on Saturday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.