Hornets 86, Jazz 80
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
In only his seventh start this season, Kaman scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and New Orleans snapped an eight-game skid with an 86-80 victory over the Utah Jazz on Monday night.
''I know what I'm capable of. ... I'm just trying to be positive and do the best I can with the situation,'' Kaman said. ''I can't worry about the situation with trades. I can't worry about the situation with the organization. It's a business, so that part I have to leave alone. ... As far as the basketball goes, that's something I'm capable of doing.''
Marco Belinelli and Gustavo Ayon each added 13 points for New Orleans, which led by as many as 20 in the third quarter before holding on for only its third victory in 26 games. Greivis Vasquez had 12 points and 10 assists.
The 7-foot Kaman, who normally has played a reserve role this season, recently spent a week away from the team while the Hornets sought to trade him, hoping a team in playoff contention might be interested in a veteran center with and expiring contract. When no deal developed as quickly as the club hoped, Kaman was re-activated.
He started against Utah because center Emeka Okafor was scratched shortly before tipoff with a sore left knee.
Kaman himself was questionable heading into the game because of sore left ankle, which kept him out of a loss to Portland on Friday night. But he said he felt good enough after pregame warmups to play and turned in one of his most dominant performances as a Hornet, scoring on a variety of mid-range jumpers, graceful jump hooks and workman-like putbacks under the basket.
''I've shown for eight years what I'm capable of doing. I don't have to do it in one game,'' said Kaman, acquired before this season in a multiplayer trade that sent All-Star Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers. ''I've had big games like that many times and I've proven myself in this league. This wasn't a statement. It wasn't anything like, `Hey, you need to play me more,' or anything like that. It was an opportunity where Emeka was hurt.''
Al Jefferson had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, which was playing the second of back-to-back games after winning in Memphis on Sunday night. The Jazz turned the ball over 20 times, but still managed to get as close as three points in the final minute.
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin had stressed the importance of avoiding a let-down against the slumping, undermanned Hornets, and afterward felt like his message had not gotten through.
''It was everything I thought it wouldn't be. We came out flat from the beginning of the ballgame and we turned the ball over,'' Corbin said. ''We can't afford to do that. We had a great win (Sunday) night. We took a step back tonight.''
Corbin appeared frustrated with his starters during a difficult third quarter and went mostly with reserves down the stretch, which almost paid off.
New Orleans led 76-59 toward the middle of the fourth quarter after Kaman scored four straight points. Then, Utah began to claw back with a 13-3 run ignited by Earl Watson's jumper. Gordon Hayward added four points during the spurt, cutting New Orleans' lead to 79-72 on a jumper with 3:24 left.
Watson later trimmed it to 81-76 when he raced to the sidelined to grab a loose ball after Gustavo Ayon had blocked Favors underneath and threw in a 27-foot bank shot with 2:11 left. The Hornets' lead was down to 83-80 on Favors' putback with 21.6 seconds left, but then Utah had to start fouling.
Kaman made one free throw and Trevor Ariza made two more for the final margin.
''Chris Kaman was really huge tonight,'' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ''His scoring, his rebounding, his leadership, and talking in the huddles - I've never seen him do that.''
The Hornets dominated the third quarter, going on an 18-1 run to take a 20-point lead when Vasquez's basket made it 63-43. Kaman scored six of his points during the spurt on a pair of jumpers and a putback.
Utah led 21-13 in the first quarter after a 9-0 run highlighted by Favors' dunk. New Orleans responded by scoring the last seven points of the quarter, then pulled ahead with a 7-0 run to close the second quarter, with Belinelli's 3 giving the Hornets a 41-36 halftime lead.
Notes: Watson was called for a technical foul for arguing with officials early in the fourth quarter. ... For the second straight game, the Hornets had only nine players in uniform. In addition to Okafor, the Hornets were without G Eric Gordon (right knee bruise), G Jarrett Jack, (left knee bruise), F Carl Landry (left knee sprain) and F Jason Smith (concussion). The Jazz, by contrast, entered without a single injury. ... Utah fell to 3-8 on the road.