NEW ORLEANS — Short of depth but not short on heart, the Hornets found a way to win a game late two days after losing by the second-largest margin in franchise history.
New Orleans outscored Detroit 9-2 in the final two minutes and defeated the Pistons 100-95, doing so without forward Anthony Davis and Jason Smith and with guard Eric Gordon disappearing in another second half.
And yet, the Hornets (21-39) were able to turn to Greivis Vasquez, whose 13 fourth-quarter points helped seal the win. Those included a running nine-foot bank shot that put pressure on the Pistons to make a game-tying 3-pointer with just seconds to play.
“In my head I’ve got all the games that we couldn’t close and we lost,” said Vasquez, who finished with a team-high 25 points while dishing out nine assists. “Finally I was really calm and I got a good bucket for us.”
New Orleans was coming off of a 45-point loss at Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Early Friday, it appeared the Hornets were going to struggle again without Davis, who missed his second straight game with a sprained left shoulder, and Smith, who is done for the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
The Pistons jumped to a 16-6 lead and forced the Hornets to shoot just 37.5 percent in the opening 12 minutes.
But New Orleans slowly crept back into the game and by halftime, trailed only by two points.
With 4:05 to play in the game, it appeared the Hornets were going to cruise to the win. That’s when Gordon hit his only basket of the second half, finishing a puzzling 1-for-7 in the final 24 minutes after starting the game 5 of 11.
Then the Hornets spiraled out of control while Detroit reeled off a 9-0 run. Gordon turned the ball over before Vasquez and he missed shots. Meanwhile, Brandon Knight’s layup and 3-pointer sandwiched a Jason Maxiell dunk.
And when Greg Monroe slammed the ball through the hoop with 1:58 to play, the Hornets were suddenly trailing 93-91.
New Orleans found its footing, however, following a timeout.
The key play, however, came with 32 seconds to go when Aminu tied up Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey. On the ensuing jump ball, Aminu tipped it to Vasquez, who rolled to his right, penetrating far enough to bank in a nine-footer for a 98-95 lead.
Stuckey didn’t a clean look on a game-tying 3-pointer and the Hornets were in the win, just the second time since the All-Star break.
“We had to grind tonight, we had to mix it up tonight,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “… Down the stretch when we were unable to matchup with Monroe, we made it tough for him. I think we wore him down tonight.”
Monroe, in only his second professional game in his home town, scored a game-high 27 points and also grabbed 10 rebounds.