Hornets fans grew restless as guard Eric Gordon sat out much of the early season rehabilitating his injured knee.
A New Year’s Day appearance at New Orleans Arena was met with a mixture of cheers as well as jeers.
But Gordon may be turning those dissenters into fans, proving he may just be worth the Hornets nearly $60 million investment.
Gordon scored 24 points, including six consecutive in a critical fourth quarter run, to lead the Hornets to a 95-88 victory over San Antonio on Monday night.
”That’s one of the key things I do best when it comes to late-game situations or if anything gets tough,” Gordon said. ”I like to take guys one on one and I’m able to get a shot off and get a good shot. I look forward to that.
”I love those situations,” he said.
Anthony Davis added 17 points, Greivis Vasquez 14 and Ryan Anderson 13 for the Hornets, who have won two consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 2-3, the second and third games of the season.
New Orleans, which snapped a six-game losing streak against San Antonio, has also won three of the four games in which Davis has played since his return in a 98-95 victory at Charlotte on Dec. 29. He sat out a 104-92 loss at Houston on Jan. 2.
The Hornets have held their opponents to less than 100 points in each of their nine wins.
”To hold this team to 88 points is a great sign for our defense,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ”Confidence, to me, comes when you defend the right way, and I thought we did that tonight.”
Manu Ginobili scored 21 points to lead the Spurs, who had won eight of their previous nine, dating to a 99-94 victory over the Hornets in San Antonio on Dec. 21.
Tony Parker added 16 points, Tim Duncan 13 and Kawhi Leonard 10 for San Antonio. Duncan was 5 of 14, at one point missing five consecutive shots in the third quarter.
The Spurs committed 19 turnovers, leading to 23 points for New Orleans.
”We played a well-coached aggressive, well-executing team,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. ”They did a great job at both ends of the court. They just whipped us.”
The Hornets, who grabbed a lead they would not relinquish midway through the first quarter, entered the fourth period up 70-65. Gordon played spectator for the first four minutes. He re-entered the game with 7:41 remaining and immediately made three jumpers, sparking a 6-2 run that gave the Hornets an 84-77 lead with 5:06 left.
He later added another jumper to give the Hornets an 88-79 lead with 3:26 remaining.
”We collectively played hard for 48 minutes,” Williams said. ”Even when (the Spurs) made a run, it was one of those runs that scared you a bit, but you knew that with Eric and Greivis playing that way, you had a chance to kind of pull out of it.”
Vasquez’s steal and subsequent layup gave the Hornets a 90-79 lead with 2:35 left.
”They’ve got a closer now,” San Antonio forward Stephen Jackson said. ”(Gordon) took the game over and was going to work at the end of the game, doing what he wanted. He closed the game for them, and that was what they were missing: a closer.”
Despite missing eight of his first 11 shots, Gordon scored 12 points in leading New Orleans to a 49-41 halftime lead. Davis, on 5-of-8 shooting, had 10 points in the half.
Both team started slowly with the score tied at 6 with 7:30 remaining in the first quarter. But the Hornets, buoyed by four consecutive free throws by Gordon went on a 10-2 run to take an 18-10 lead with 3:16 left in the period.
Duncan committed three turnovers and two personal fouls in the first 8 minutes.
NOTES: The Hornets signed guard Donald Sloan to a 10-day contract Monday. Sloan, who played in 3 games for the Hornets during the 2011-12 season, has most recently played for the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League. Sloan also appeared in 20 games earlier this season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. … NBA Hall of Famer Bob Pettit, an LSU standout, was at courtside, sitting next to Hornets and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Shortly before tipoff Duncan and Parker greeted Pettit.