NEW ORLEANS — Don’t look know, but the Hornets have won three in a row.
And after Wednesday night’s thrilling 88-79 come-from-behind win over the streaking Rockets, it’d be hard not to get excited.
Well, unless you’re a part of the team.
Minutes after, they’re minds already were on Friday night’s home game against Minnesota and beyond.
“It’s three in a row but at the same time, we have to continue to get better,” said forward Jason Smith, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds. “We can’t be complacent with this three in a row. There’s a lot of games left, a lot of season left.”
No doubt that’s the message coach Monty Williams will preach to his team when they gather against Thursday for practice. He’ll also likely extol the virtues of always being prepared, singling out reserve guard Roger Mason Jr.
|NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 09: Roger Mason Jr. #8 of the New Orleans Hornets shoots the ball against the Houston Rockets at New Orleans Arena on January 9, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)|
Mason didn’t play in New Orleans’ Monday night win over San Antonio. Two nights later, against Houston, he finished with 17 points in 16 minutes, including 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“He didn’t hang his head,” Williams said. “He came back the next day and got his shots in and prepared the way you’re supposed to.”
“I knew that the law of percentages would catch up,” said Mason, who was only 1 of 4 in his previous two appearances. “I was able to hit some shots that I know I can hit. I just keep working, staying in the gym and I feel good.”
Mason’s play helped offset a poor night from both Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. The team’s two leading scorers combined for just five points, with Gordon going 2 of 12 and Anderson missing on all seven shot attempts.
For Houston, James Harden led with 25 points, but only three came in the fourth quarter. No other Rocket scored in double figures.
It was Mason who led the Hornets (10-25) out of the depths of another third quarter in which they’ve been outscored. This time New Orleans went into the final 12 minutes down 10 points.
But after Smith blocked a Patrick Patterson shot to open the quarter, the Hornets got rolling. Brian Roberts hit a four-foot shot and then Mason scored seven straight points to pull New Orleans to within one point of Houston (21-15).
The Rockets’ Toney Douglas hit a layup to push Houston’s lead back to three before Roberts made two free throws.
A Mason 3-pointer gave New Orleans a lead it wouldn’t give up in the final 6½ minutes.
The run, which was 22-2, was matched by a raucous if partially filled New Orleans Arena. For the first time this season, Williams and his players had a home-court advantage.
“We didn’t even have a packed house and it was crazy,” Williams said, before later adding, “The people who did come, I thank them with all my heart because that energy – the screaming, the applause even when we’re down – that means a lot to me, our staff, our players.
“We just want our fans to understand we want to do well for ourselves and our families, but we play for them as well.”
In fact, that energy likely played a factor in a fourth quarter in which the Hornets forced four turnovers and didn’t allow Houston to take many good shots. The Rockets were just 4 of 19 in the quarter while New Orleans won the rebounding battle 14-6 in the final 12 minutes.
And now New Orleans has won three straight, all against Southwest Division opponents.