NEW ORLEANS — Robin Lopez spent the entirety of the fourth quarter on the bench in New Orleans’ Monday night game against Milwaukee.
But it wasn’t because he had fallen out of favor with coach Monty Williams.
No, Lopez was getting his just rewards for helping deliver the Hornets only the second win in the past 11 games, a 102-81 victory.
Lopez ended his night 8 of 10 for 21 points, tying his season high for points with a full quarter to play.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Lopez said. “Greivis (Vasquez), Roger (Mason Jr.) and Ryan (Anderson), they all found me at the rim and Roger and Ryan especially did a good job of spacing the floor. When you have two shooters out there, I just have to put it in the basket.”
Nip and tuck for the entire first half and opening of the third quarter, the Hornets (5-11), behind Lopez, took over just four minutes into the 24 minutes.
Al Farouq-Aminu, who finished with nine points, powered through a dunk to give tie the game at 60.
And then Lopez put his stamp on the game.
He started with a layup and an and-1. Thirty-five seconds later, he sank two more free throws. A layup and a jumper followed. And with 4:15, a Lopez layup gave the Hornets a 71-60 lead.
New Orleans never trailed again.
“We prepared for it (New Orleans’ pick-and-roll), but we just didn’t stop it,” Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. “We weren’t as active as we needed to be. We didn’t trap the ball enough and those two things go hand in hand.”
In spite of missing Anthony Davis for the eighth straight game with a stress reaction in his left ankle, the Hornets were able to own the inside.
Though Milwaukee (8-8) outrebounded New Orleans by three boards, the Hornets scored 48 points in the paint, 14 better than Milwaukee. And New Orleans scored 23 second-chance points. That was buoyed by 16 forced turnovers, which the Hornets turned into 27 points.
New Orleans’ aggressive play became the theme Williams hoped would shine through.
“We’ve got to bring the energy every night,” Hornets forward Jason Smith said. “Shots may not fall every night but we can play defense every night. That’s something he has stressed to us. I think it has got to get to us sooner than later.”
Anderson, in the starting lineup since Davis’ injury, led New Orleans with 22 points. Vasquez had 11 points and nine rebounds. And the bench contributed 34 points in the win, led by Jason Smith’s 12.
Milwaukee got 25 from Brandon Jennings and 17 from Monta Ellis, but little else from their teammates.
The win was New Orleans’ first at home since Nov. 9 and couldn’t have come at a better time. New Orleans now faces the Lakers, Grizzlies and Heat in the next five days.
“We needed an effort game,” Anderson said. “And we needed to prove to ourselves that when we play like that, we can beat a team by a big margin.”
He later added, “That’s just a huge win in a lot of ways because we need to push that momentum. We don’t want to get into another losing streak and we want to come out and fight and play hard – and we did.”