NEW ORLEANS - There must have been a feeling of dÃ©jÃ vu for Hornets coach Monty Williams on Friday night at New Orleans Arena.
Only two nights after watching his team surrender a 14-point lead in a 93-101 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, Williams and the Hornets endured another second-half swoon, allowing the visiting Denver Nuggets to come away with a 96-88 win in come-from-behind fashion. The loss was the fifth straight for the Hornets, who played without top scorer Eric Gordon (knee) and Trevor Ariza (groin).
The Hornets led the Nuggets for the first three quarters, however, Andre Miller's jumper to open the fourth quarter put Denver ahead 64-63. The Nuggets would not trail for the rest of the game, exteding their lead to as much as 12. Danilo Gallinari paced the Nuggets with a game-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting from the floor. Both teams shot 46 percent from the field for the game.
New Orleans (2-5) led by as many as 13 points in the game, but struggled on both ends of the floor in the third quarter. The Hornets committed 10 turnovers in the period and shot only 36 percent from the field.
"I thought we lost our rhythm," Williams said. "We have to keep fighting. That's the thing I keep going back to. What I don't like is when I see guys get so frustrated that you lose your poise when there's still time to get back in the game."
A 3-pointer by Greivis Vasquez at 6:31 in the fourth quarter cut into Denver's lead, making the score 78-73. However, Denver rattled off seven straight points to keep the Hornets at bay.
The Hornets bench was the bright spot for New Orleans, with Vasquez scoring a team-high 16 points, including 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc, a career-high.
"First of all I think that does not mean anything if you don't win the game," Vasquez said about his performance. "I don't really care if I got a career-high, the most important thing is we win the game. I think we need to keep fighting and keep getting better. We got to close games, we always play well for three quarters and fall down."
Carl Landry added 15 points in a reserve role. Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli scored 15 and 13 points, respectively to lead the Hornets starters.
Behind the speedy Ty Lawson, Denver (6-2) controlled the tempo of the game, scoring 19 fastbreak points. Lawson finished the game with 12 points and eight assists. Al Harriongton contributed 14 points off the bench, while Miller added 13 points.
Denver scored 24 points off 17 Hornets turnovers. The Nuggets also outrebounded the Hornets 37-36, marking the first time New Orleans was beaten on the boards all season.
"Defensively we started to control the game about midway through the second quarter," Denver coach George Karl said. "Things began breaking our way and we started clicking offensively. That was about as good a job as anyone has done on us all year, but thankfully we were able to get things going."
New Orleans took two of three from Denver last season...Miller had 13 points for Denver, which went 17-for-22 from the foul line...The Hornets were without forward Trevor Ariza (groin) and guard Eric Gordon (knee).