NEW ORLEANS — With 3:30 to play Monday night in the Hornets’ game against lowly Orlando, Ryan Anderson spun a 26-foot 3-pointer through the basket, handing New Orleans a nine-point lead and a reason to seemingly begin to celebrate.
Otis Day & the Knights’ “Shout” blared on the loudspeakers. People danced and frolicked in the aisles.
And then the fun stopped, as did the Hornets’ defense.
Orlando reeled off a 17-5 run, sending the Hornets to their sixth loss in the past eight games, a 105-102 home defeat in front of a mere 11,050 fans.
“Defensively we were about as poor as I’ve seen us all year long in the second half,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “That was one of the worst defensive efforts I’ve seen as far as executing. And we just messed with the game.”
The Hornets (21-40) turned a 10-point halftime lead into a loss to the Eastern Conference’s second-worst team by playing lax defense.
Orlando (17-44) shot 62.2 percent in the final 24 minutes, including 5 of 9 3-pointers, outscored the Hornets in the paint 38-22 and outrebounded New Orleans 19-16.
Making matters worse for New Orleans – they allowed a team playing the latter half of a back-to-back, one in which they were hammered by 26 at home the previous night – to dominate in the second half.
“We gave up 69 points against a team that played last night, a two-hour flight, that to me is not something we should be proud of at all,” Williams said. “Even if you won that game, I still would have been upset about our defensive effort.”
When asked if Monday night’s game was a trap game, former Magic forward and current Hornets sixth man Ryan Anderson said the team “acted like it was.”
“We went out and thought we had it in the bag,” said Anderson, who had 13 points. “Obviously the Magic had a rough game last night and coming off a back-to-back, we need to play better at home.”
New Orleans also couldn’t stop Arron Afflalo, who scored 17 of his 26 points in the second half, and Jameer Nelson, who scored all 15 of his points in the final 24 minutes
Still, the Hornets had a chance.
After Afflalo scored four straight points to give Orlando a 103-100 lead, Hornets rookie Anthony Davis tipped in a Greivis Vasquez miss. Eric Gordon, who scored 17 points but only five in the second half, fouled Afflalo, who was 4-for-4 from the charity strip to that point.
But after making the front end, Afflalo missed the second. Yet, instead of boxing out, Davis relaxed, allowing Orlando forward Tobias Harris to crash through the lane and grab the loose ball.
Harris made one of two free throws, giving the Magic a 3-point lead with just 10 seconds to play.
“We missed assignments, gave up corner 3’s and free-throw rebounds,” said Davis, who had 17 points and 15 rebounds. “That was a momentum change for them. instead of us being down two, we were down three off that rebound.”
The Hornets couldn’t get a clean look out of a timeout and Vasquez shot up a desperation 25-foot 3-pointer that fell harmlessly away from the hoop.
“It was great to see the guys feel it and get rewarded for their effort of consistent play – not getting too high and not getting too low,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “We get down 17 and still plug away each possession. That was great to see from multiple people.”
New Orleans has a day to regroup before hosting the Lakers. Williams hopes his players respond better after a one between games than it did with two days between games.
“It’s frustrating because we had a couple of days off and you have a chance to beat a team that just played last night and you’ve proven that you can beat the team in the first half,” he said.