Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com
NEW ORLEANS ― One win.
One huge, momentous, ridiculous win.
That’s one way to describe what Wednesday night was for the Hornets, a night that ended in a thrilling 93-92 win over Dallas, the Western Conference’s second-best team.
There was no Chris Paul this time to rescue the Hornets.
Emeka Okafor was quiet for much of the game.
Hornets coach Monty Williams used only an eight-man rotation.
And still the Hornets (38-29) found a way to win.
“Every game is a gotta win,” Williams said before the game. “Back in October, it was a gotta win. I don’t differentiate that way.”
With all due respect to Williams, this win was more than “a gotta win” game.
For a team fighting for relevancy in a conference where three games separate spots No. 5-9 when only eight teams get in the playoffs, this was much bigger than that.
The players understand this, a good thing being that they’re the ones who count the most.
“This is a big-time win for us,” guard Willie Green said. “Maybe I’m not showing it, but I’m definitely super-excited to get this big win. Just a total team effort.”
He added, “Tonight was just a hard-fought game. We didn’t give up. There were plenty of times where we could have put our heads down and guys didn’t do it.”
No. No they didn’t.
From Marco Belinelli hitting a big three and forcing a turnover in the final 50 seconds to Okafor grabbing a big offensive rebound and scoring on the put back to Jarrett Jack hitting three huge free throws with 8.4 seconds to play, no one gave up.
But no one is calling this a season-changing game just yet.
There are still games against Boston, Denver, the Lakers and contenders Memphis and Phoenix left not to mention the season curtain closer at Dallas on April 13.
But it has the potential to do what the 10-game win streak in January didn’t do, what it couldn’t do because everybody was healthy – it can give this team the confidence that it can’t play with anybody.
“I tell our guys this all the time and they look at me like I’m crazy,” Williams said. “But I don’t care who suits up. As long as you have that logo on your jersey, you have a chance to win.”
There are four more games left on this home stand. The Hornets are going to have to believe they can win each night go on the court.
They’re also going to have to give the same effort they showed in the fourth quarter, when New Orleans outscored Dallas 33-22, overcoming an 11-point deficit to begin the final 8½ minutes.
That can happen.
There is precedence for a sudden swings in fortune for New Orleans this season.
Just look back to the fourth quarter of the Golden State game on Jan. 26. That’s when the fortunes of the season turned.
The Hornets held on to a beefy lead and Williams took his starters out of the game. But with the bench struggling, Williams had to re-insert his starters. The Hornets held on for a nine-point win, but they haven’t been the same since.
Now they’ve been given new life, winning a big game in come-from-behind fashion over one of the best teams in the NBA.
“You just have to wait for your moment,” Williams said. “We grinded it out, our moment came, and our guys made plays.”
He was talking about the end of the game, but he might as well have been talking about the final 16 games of the season.
Saturday night against Sacramento, we’ll see if they’ve truly grabbed the moment.