Hornets 123, Rockets 115
The New Orleans Hornets were determined to finish the season with a victory. That was about the only goal left to reach.
David West had 35 points and 10 rebounds, rookie Darren Collison added 26 points and 11 assists and the Hornets beat the Houston Rockets 123-115 on Wednesday night in the season finale for both teams.
``We wanted to get on the bus with a win,'' West said. ``We felt like this was a game we wanted to play with high intensity. We weren't just going to lay down and be unprofessional in terms of not going out giving maximum effort.''
Marcus Thornton scored 20 points for the Hornets, who won for the second time in their final 14 road games. The Hornets (37-45) will sit out the playoffs for the first time in three years after a season ruined by injuries, most notably to Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic.
Two years ago, New Orleans went 56-26, the best mark in franchise history. West says it's too early to speculate what offseason changes are needed to put the Hornets back among the elite teams.
``We're back in the catch-up mode, in terms of having to get back to where they are,'' he said. ``Obviously, our main gun (Paul) was down for most of the year. When he came back, he wasn't fully healthy. That took too big a toll.''
The Rockets can relate.
They were undersized and limited on defense all year without Yao Ming, who sat out to recover from foot surgery. Houston revamped the lineup at the trade deadline, dealing away troublesome Tracy McGrady, and finished 42-40.
``They generally competed all year long,'' Coach Rick Adelman said. ``They really came together early and had a great start. At the end, it was disappointing, but it was still a pleasure to coach these guys.''
Trevor Ariza finished his first regular season in Houston with his first career triple-double - 26 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists. Kevin Martin, acquired in the McGrady deal, scored 24 points.
New Orleans didn't need its stars in the finale, shooting 64 percent (51 of 80) with 28 assists.
West went 16 for 20 from the floor, toying with any Houston defender who tried to guard him. Collison hit 11 of 17 shots, outplaying Rockets point guard Aaron Brooks.
Yao is expected to come back healthy for next season, but Brooks said the Rockets can't hope for just that to bounce them back in 2010-11.
``We haven't done anything yet, so we don't have anything to hang our hats on,'' he said. ``We haven't accomplished anything. How I feel is we've got to come in this summer and work had and get better individually, and then come back.''
Ariza, a member of the Los Angeles' Lakers championship team last summer, wants to take a break from basketball and won't watch the playoffs. Collison says he will, even though his team won't be participating.
``You don't want to watch it, because you always picture yourself being there,'' he said. ``But it's exciting to see the best players perform at a very high level.''
Neither team played much defense most of the night on Wednesday, and the Rockets shot 54 percent (47 of 87). Their 31 assists were two shy of a season high.
West, who scored a career-high 44 points in Houston on Dec. 29, hit his first five shots on Wednesday.
West scored 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting in the first half; the rest of the team was only 16 for 29. Martin scored 14 first-half points to lead the Rockets.
Collison reached 20 points and 10 assists in the third quarter, the third time this season he reached those totals in the same game. He beat the buzzer with a driving layup to put New Orleans up 95-90 heading to the fourth.
NOTES: Collison finished with 14 double-doubles this season. ... Brooks, Scola and Chuck Hayes started all 82 games. Houston has not had three players start every game in a regular season since 1989-90. ... Yao set up a hotline to help North American Chinese residents reach family and friends in China following a series of earthquakes there. Yao, out this season after left foot surgery, created a foundation in June 2008, about a month after a massive earthquake struck the Sichuan province. Yao launched the foundation with a $2 million donation to rebuild schools in the affected area. The hotline number is (718) 766-9636. A recorded message in English and Mandarin asks the caller to enter the phone number of the person they are trying to reach in China.