NEW ORLEANS — With 7.1 seconds to play and the Hornets tied with the Jazz, New Orleans coach Monty Williams had only one thing in mind.Give point guard Greivis Vasquez a right-handed chance for the win.
He did and Vasquez answered, lofting a soft layup in off the glass with just 1.3 seconds to play, handing the Hornets an 88-86 win over the Jazz on Friday night.
“Running back to the bench (during the timeout), he was like, ‘I want you to hit a big shot for me. I want you to hit this big shot for us,’ ” Vasquez said. “It was a basic play. Just get the ball, fake the screen, go and you go off with your right hand. That’s what I did. I was able to go by two guys and then I got the layup.”
Said Williams, “The angle he had, I can’t figure out how that ball went in. I just thanked the lord and moved on. The play was created for him to go with his right hand. He just made a heck of a play.”
Vasquez paced the Hornets with his first double-double of the season, scoring 13 points while dishing out 10 assists. He had only three turnovers.
Two nights after letting a late lead slip away to San Antonio, New Orleans didn’t let the same thing happen again.
And the Hornets (1-1) had to do it without Anthony Davis, the team’s No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft.
Davis left in the second quarter after an apparent poke of the eye. It turned out to be an errant elbow to the head and he didn’t return after doctors didn’t clear him after diagnosing him with a mild concussion. He had eight points, six rebounds and two steals in his limited time in the game.
The rookie won’t travel to Chicago for the Hornets’ Saturday night game against the Bulls and instead will stay in New Orleans for further testing.
In Davis’ absence, other players stepped up. Ryan Anderson scored 19 points on 5 of 9 shooting from 3-point range, Robin Lopez added 19 more with seven rebounds and Al-Farouq Aminu pitched in 15 points and eight boards.
“They’ve got to be ready,” Williams said. “That’s what we do here. Just like this city – you get hit and lose somebody, somebody else in your family steps up and provides what you need.”
New Orleans outscored Utah 56-36 in the paint and held the Jazz to 41.2 percent shooting. And the Hornets played a clean game, sending Utah to the free-throw line for only 12 attempts two nights after the Jazz sank 31 free throws.
The Hornets also had 23 second-chance points to Utah’s 20 in spite of being outrebounded by two.
But all of that just proved to be back story to the final minute of the game.
When Anderson sank a 3-pointer with 32.7 seconds to play, those in the New Orleans Arena erupted, believing the Hornets had just sealed the one-point win. And on the ensuing Jazz possession, Roger Mason Jr. picked up a rebound, hitting two free throws to give New Orleans an 86-83 lead with 16.3 seconds to play.
But Utah’s Paul Millsap put up a last-gasp 3-pointer, quieting the crowd when it passed through the net tying the game.
That’s when Williams called timeout, setting up Vasquez’s first-ever game-winning shot.
“We were trying to switch everything and (Vasquez) just turned around and hit a tough shot,” Utah’s Gordon Heyward said.
Randy Foye led Utah (1-1) with 20 points while Mo Williams had 16. Big men Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson were limited to 10 and 11 points, respectively.