Bradley Handwerger /


NEW ORLEANS ― At least the Hornets can take solace that they weren't alone Sunday night in throwing away a home game after leading by 15 or more points.

The All-Star laden Miami Heat blew it against the Knicks in South Florida.

But there's one difference Houston certainly is no New York, which boasts Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Chauncey Billups.

New Orleans' 91-89 loss at the Arena to Southwest Division rival Houston is one the Hornets couldn't let slip away.

Not with a five-game Mardi Gras road trip at hand.

Not with so few games separating the Hornets (35-26) from the fourth spot as well as the ninth spot, which falls out of the playoffs at season's end.

Don't think for one second, though, that New Orleans doesn't think Sunday's loss was a big deal.

They know better.

'This is a game we really couldn't afford to give away,' power forward David West said. 'We've got a tough road trip. We'd love to have a better feeling about what we're doing. Going out on the road, I thought we just (had) no snap, no pop.'

The numbers generally don't lie.

Sunday night, they perfectly described the horror that was the final 24 minutes.

The Hornets shot only 37.8 percent from the floor. They got to the free-throw line only three times. They were outrebounded by six boards.

And yet, it was the mainstay of the team that really let them down.

The defense that stifled the Rockets (30-31) into shooting only 33.3 percent in the opening half gave up 53.1 percent shooting in the second.

Houston was 6 of 13 from 3-point range, 11 of 13 from the free-throw line and had nine second-chance points in the final two quarters.

The Hornets, by the way, led by as many as 16 points and owned a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

'We just got lackadaisical, including myself,' guard Willie Green said. 'We just didn't put our foot on their neck. We had them down, I think, 10 points. We have to be better in order to be a team that we want to be.'

And that's not a good sign going into this road trip.

This is a game the Hornets desperately needed to win. It would have given them three straight wins heading into a five-game road stretch.

Besides their record trending up, their confidence would have been heading in the same direction.

The bench gave them 32 points, including 13 from Carl Landry and 14 from Marco Belinelli.

But they couldn't do what they needed to do when it mattered most.

'We talked about this,' West said. 'We've been eyeing this trip. Five games in seven days. We're going to have to go out and get some wins.'

That would have been easier going in with a three-game win streak rather than a one-game losing streak.

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