NEW ORLEANS — Eric Gordon drove the lane, scoring an acrobatic layup despite being fouled.
Thirty seconds later, he smoothly sank a 26-foot 3-pointer.
And nearly 30 seconds after that, he calmly drilled a 24-foot jumper.
A four-point lead turned into a 12-point lead and the Hornets slayed the city’s first NBA franchise 96-85 to cap one of the most historic days in club history.
“I just look forward for those situations when it comes down to playing,” Gordon said. “We play hard defensively and keep the game close and I try to take over those games when it’s late in the fourth quarter.”
Hours earlier, the NBA announced the sale of the Hornets to Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints.
Gordon, for the first time as a Hornet, dazzled and showed why he was the centerpiece New Orleans received for trading Chris Paul to the Clippers in December.
His dizzying array of dribble-drives, step-back jumpers and off-ball defending were just glimpses of why the Hornets (17-42) will look to build around him as the franchise looks towards its future.
He finished with 25 points on 11 of 18 shooting, hitting 2 of 5 3-pointers while dishing out six assists in the win.
“He’s that pivotal player where you can give it to him and he doesn’t need a play run for him,” forward Jason Smith said. “That’s a rarity in this league. A lot of guys say they go one-on-one, but he can truly go one-on-one.”
Gordon was just part of the Hornets’ hot-shooting night, the team sinking 55.1 percent of their shots and 6 of 13 3-pointers. Center Chris Kaman added 19 points and Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu both had 11 points.
For much of the game, however, it didn’t look like either team would run away. Neither team led by more than six points after the mid-point of the first quarter and for a four-minute stretch of the fourth quarter, the lead vacillated back and forth by a single bucket.
That stretch was preceded by two technical fouls, one on Smith and one on coach Monty Williams.
Though it took awhile, the feistiness appeared to have turned the momentum, which culminated in Gordon’s run.
“He made big shots,” Utah coach Ty Corbin said. “He is what he is. He is a good one-on-one player. We tried to trap him early on, but they did a good job of coming back to him.”