By Nick Peruffo
Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, Cavaliers coach Byron Scott couldn’t do Friday night what he had done quite regularly as recently as two seasons ago: win in New Orleans. Despite allowing an uncharacteristic 33 fourth-quarter points to their old coach’s new squad, the New Orleans Hornets were able to hold on to a 108-101 victory, stretching their league-best record to 10-1.
“I thought we played basketball like we were playing the scoreboard a little bit,” current Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “That was what I talked about to the guys after the game. If we’re fortunate enough to have a lead, we have to learn to play with that lead and execute. I’m not going to complain about a win. It’s too hard to get wins in this league. And at the same time, we know that we can finish games a lot better but we beat an NBA team again tonight.”
The LeBron-less Cavaliers were able to stay with the Hornets early, finishing the first quarter down only 28-26. In the second quarter, however, New Orleans caught fire offensively, scoring 36 points on 65 percent shooting, while holding the Cavaliers to only 15 points on 17.4 percent shooting.
Leading the way for the Bees in the second stanza was the newly acquired Italian import Marco Belinelli, who sent the New Orleans Arena crowd into a frenzy with three huge three-pointers. Belinelli, who is average approximately double the points per game he managed over three seasons with Golden State and Toronto, spoke about the benefits of playing with Chris Paul.
“It’s easy because you have so much space,” Belinelli said. “[Paul] is for sure one of the best players, the best point guard, in the league. So, what I do is just get ready to shoot the ball and try to play good defense.”
For his part, Paul recorded a double-double of 15 points and 10 assists in only 33 minutes of action. Perhaps no Hornet was as close with Scott during his New Orleans tenure as Paul, but that familiarity didn’t seem to manifest itself on the court.
“When a coach is your coach, he thinks you’re the best thing ever, but when he plays against you, he obviously has to have a way he thinks he can stop you,” Paul said. “So it was interesting to see what they did. They just guarded me with the point guard.”
After the Hornets torrid second quarter, they appeared to lose intensity, getting outscored 58-46 in the second half. The Cavaliers were able to cut the lead to only 3 with 21.2 seconds remaining with three clutch Antwan Jameson free throws, but a David West steal on the next Cleveland possession sealed the win for New Orleans.
“We’ve got work to do,” West said. “We were intent on coming in and trying to play a complete game. We had some slippage, but we won. We didn’t finish the way we wanted to. We had some breakdowns and gave them some threes. They’ve got guys who can knock some shots down. They play hard, and we knew it was going to be like that.”
West was the games leading scorer with 34 points, while Belinelli added 20. Jameson paced Cleveland off the bench with 20, with Ramon Sessions contributing 16.
The Hornets begin a four-game road trip Sunday with a tilt against the Sacramento Kings.