NEW ORLEANS — The Hornets had an answer in the final 24 minutes for nearly everything the Brooklyn Nets threw at them.
Unfortunately they didn’t have a solution for the one thing they just couldn’t stop – Deron Williams at the free-throw line late.
Williams scored the final 11 points for the Nets, included going 6 of 6 from the charity stripe, and the Hornets couldn’t overcome a 22-point first-half deficit in falling to Brooklyn 101-97.
The Hornets have now lost 4 of 5 since the All-Star break, halting the momentum the team gained before in winning 4 of 5 prior to the Feb. 17 mid-season celebration.
“If we want our fans to come out and support us the way most other teams in the NBA do, we have to bring the energy and effort because we don’t have high-level talent at every position,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
Brooklyn's Williams finished with a game-high 33 points and eight assists while Brook Lopez added 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four blocks. Keith Bogans came off the bench for Brooklyn (34-24) and scored 12 points, including going 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans (20-38) was without the services of rookie Anthony Davis in the fourth quarter after he injured his shoulder. Though he was ruled able to return by team trainers, Williams erred on the side of caution and kept him out. Davis had only six points on 2 of 4 shooting.
In his place, Ryan Anderson and Roger Mason stepped up, adding 11 points and critical shots down the stretch that helped the Hornets nearly pull off the comeback win.
“I love the way our guys compete,” Williams said. “Even when we get down, the guys just continue to compete and play until there’s no more time on the clock. That’s something I am really proud of.”
There just wasn’t enough time nor an answer for Brooklyn’s superstar guard.
His 3-pointer with 1:24 to play put Brooklyn up 93-84. After Austin Rivers put in a driving layup, Williams answered with a crowd-hushing 18-foot fadeaway jumper.
Again the Hornets responded, Greivis Vasquez hitting a 3-pointer followed by an Anderson trey. Suddenly, with 19 seconds to play, the Hornets were down only 95-92.
But then Williams strung together six straight free throws, answering an Anderson jumper and a Vasquez 3-pointer.
“It feels good to get it going, especially down the stretch and be able to close out a game,” the Nets’ Williams said. “It’s something I’ve kind of struggled with this year and I was really successful at it most of my career so it feels good to be able to finally have a game like that.”
Vasquez led New Orleans with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. Robin Lopez added 14 points and seven rebounds.
The Hornets now travel to Oklahoma City, where they’ll take on the Western Conference’s No. 2 team on the back end of a back-to-back Wednesday night. And the team could be without guard Eric Gordon, who finished with just 10 points on 4 of 15 shooting, who as of a week ago remained on a strict no second game of back-to-back restriction, or Davis.