NEW ORLEANS — Late in the fourth quarter Tuesday night, New Orleans Al-Farouq Aminu barreled into the lane, his direction stopped only by Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich.
Immediately officials called a blocking foul on Hinrich and, with just 1:59 remaining and the Hornets down 10, the door opened slightly.
And then it shut.
A little known rule giving officials the ability to review plays with less than two minutes to play helped overturn the blocking foul, turning it into a charge on Aminu.
Whatever momentum New Orleans hoped to gain was lost and Chicago outlasted the Hornets 96-87.
“Good officiating,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Just shows you they want to get it right. I’ll leave it at that.”
The play was a microcosm of New Orleans’ fourth quarter, when the Hornets (19-35) turned the ball over nine times, including seven in the final six minutes after they had cut the deficit to one point twice.
“You’d think that on your home court you have a chance to take the lead and get some momentum and we just kind of gave in to their pressure,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
New Orleans lost in spite of getting double-doubles from Anthony Davis (15 points 10 rebounds) and Greivis Vasquez (11 points, 10 assists) and 20 points from Eric Gordon.
It certainly didn’t help that the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter couldn’t get going. Ryan Anderson was 0 of 4 from beyond the arc and finished the game just 2-for-11 shooting
Twice the Hornets pulled to within one point of Chicago (31-22). And each time, the Bulls had an answer.
The Bulls forced 15 Hornets turnovers and outrebounded New Orleans 47-39.
“They were just playing harder than us tonight,” Hornets forward Jason Smith said. “We can’t let that happen. We have to bounce back and get a big win tomorrow.”
If the Hornets are to bounce back, they’ll likely have to do it without Gordon, who is still on a pitch count of sorts. Since returning from a rehabilitation stint out West for a right knee injury, Gordon hasn’t participated in the second game of back-to-backs. Williams said prior to Tuesday’s game that that will remain the case.
Regardless, New Orleans goes to Cleveland to face a Cavaliers team that’s just 16-37 this season. It hopes to get back in the win column, somewhere it was often in the final two weeks before the All-Star break. The Hornets were 4-1 in the five games prior to the weekend.
“That’s the best thing about the NBA,” Vasquez said. “We have another one tomorrow and we get to get over this. It was a tough one.”