Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Reporter
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NEW ORLEANS ― Finally, the Hornets remember what a win feels like.
The Hornets, losers of nine straight heading into Friday night’s game against the Magic, buzzed past Orlando 93-67 with an energetic, feisty and crowd-pleasing array of put-back dunks.
If it wasn’t Emeka Okafor one-hand dunking on a miss, it was Jason Smith. And when it wasn’t Smith, it was Carl Landry.
And all three brought the loud and lively NOrena crowd quickly to their feet.
“Any time you hold a team like that to 67 points, you get excited about the fight and the character of our team to be able to come out and play as hard as they do every single night,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
The game plan heading into the game, according to Williams, was to find a way to contain Orlando’s Dwight Howard.
That didn’t happen – Howard finished with 28 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.
But they stopped just about everyone else. No other Orlando player finished with more than nine points.
New Orleans (4-15) kept Orlando to just 39.3 percent shooting and the Hornets outrebounded the Magic 43-36. Maybe more impressively was the difference in points in the paint, which the Hornets outscored Orlando by 22 points.
They also forced turnovers – 23, scoring 28 points off of them – while holding onto the ball themselves, finishing with just 13 giveaways.
“The only thing we did tonight was just dump the ball to Dwight,” said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team fell to 12-7. “It didn’t matter what we called. We had no energy coming off of screens, the ball didn’t move, guys didn’t want to shoot the ball. It’s very bad right now.”
Landry led New Orleans with 17 points and six rebounds, Marco Belinelli added 15, including four made 3-pointers, and Smith contributed 14 points in a win in which the Hornets shot 50.6 percent.
It started early. After going down 3-0 in the first 30 seconds, Marco Belinelli tied it with a trey of his own.
By the end of the first-quarter, the lead was four points and by halftime it was 13.
After losing so many games by two points or with second-half collapses, the Hornets made sure that wouldn’t happen Friday night.
“This is the first time all season we’ve been able to get a lead, extend it and extend it some more,” Hornets guard Jarrett Jack said. “We call that putting the foot on the opponent. Sometimes we’ve jumped on teams early and allowed them to get back into the ballgame with a momentum swing. I think once we got the momentum, we were able to keep it on our side and really extend it for the latter stages of the ballgame.”
They pushed the halftime lead to 20 at 54-34 in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Orlando worked the game back to 14 points but that didn’t last long as New Orleans continued to attack the basket.
New Orleans shot 53.8 percent in the second half and outrebounded the Magic by seven.