NEW ORLEANS — For much of this season, Hornets point guard Greivis Vasquez has been a beacon of light for the team to follow.
Friday night, against the Houston Rockets, Vasquez spent 75 percent of the second half on the bench.
He wasn’t injured, coach Monty Williams said. No, he just wasn’t playing well.
His teammates took his cue.
New Orleans fell for the second consecutive game and third time in the past four, losing 100-82 to the Rockets.
“When you mess with the game, it has a way of messing with you and that’s where we are right now,” Williams said. “We saw that tonight, giving up points in transition, not being able to guard the ball, breakdowns and that’s on me. I’ve got to get the team ready to play.”
The Hornets (14-29) shot just 38.8 percent and made only 3 of 20 3-pointers, nearly 22 percent below their season average for treys. It didn’t help that the Hornets were outrebounded by 10 and were outscored on the fast-break 20-9.
Vasquez, who has been the team’s on-floor leader for much of the season, was just 1-for-6 for two points. He had six assists and two turnovers in only 24 minutes, his fewest minutes since playing 22 ½ on Dec. 7 against Memphis.
“He’s got to play better,” Williams said, “and he has got to understand that it’s not going to be easy every night and that’s a part of growing up. He’ll be OK, but there comes a time when you have to sit him down and play the guys who are going to play the right way. And he’d be the first to tell you that he’s not playing well right now.”
James Harden led Houston (23-22) with 30 points and eight assists while Patrick Patterson added 18 points and tied a career high with 13 rebounds. Those two combined to break the game open.
After New Orleans scored four straight points to open the second half, pulling within 48-44, Houston’s Kevin McHale called timeout.
The game never got closer.
Harden and Patterson combined for 16 points in a 16-2 run that put the game out of reach. New Orleans never got back within 10 points after Patterson’s tip-in with 8:37 to play in the third quarter.
“Guys found me,” said Harden, who compiled his 13th game of at least 30 points this season. “We got some shots to fall. This game was probably our best defensive game all year as far as four quarters really locking in.”
New Orleans, meanwhile, now goes on a Super Bowl road trip, playing five games on the road in the next 11 days.
Williams said the key to breaking out of this mini-slump will be getting back to defensive basics.
“We certainly have to guard the ball better,” Williams said. “That’s a premium for us. This year has been a bit of a quandary because we haven’t to deal with that. Our first two years here we always guarded the ball well and have been good at pick-and-roll defense.”