On a night when Blake Griffin had the worst offensive performance of his brief but eventful NBA career with the Los Angeles Clippers, Greivis Vazquez’s work at the offensive end combined to give the New Orleans Hornets a positive end to an ugly road trip.
Vasquez had 25 points and 10 assists Monday night, and the Hornets’ big men took Griffin completely out of the game en route to a 105-98 victory that ended the Hornets’ seven-game losing streak.
”It’s been tough for us the whole week, and at the end of the road trip we get this win. It’s going to build some confidence, especially with a young team like this,” Vasquez said. ”We came out here with a mission. We didn’t care who we were going to play. We just wanted to compete and show who we are.”
Griffin made only one of nine shots in 35 minutes, finishing with a career-low four points and six rebounds before fouling out with 2:36 left in the game. It marked only the fourth time the two-time All-Star failed to reach double digits in scoring in 173 NBA regular season and playoff games.
The Hornets weren’t quite as physical with Griffin as they were last season; at least there were no flagrant fouls this time on him. In the previous meeting on April 22 at Los Angeles, Robin Lopez was assessed a flagrant 2 for hooking Griffin around the neck on an attempted breakaway layup. On March 22 at New Orleans, Jason Smith was called for a flagrant 2 for bodyslamming Griffin to the floor on a fast break and was suspended for two games, including the rematch four nights later at Staples Center.
”Ryan did a decent job of frustrating Blake tonight, just by bodying him. But let’s be honest, sometimes guys just miss shots. So I won’t say it was all our defense,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ”Our team concept was to load up on him for just make it hard. You’ve got to run different guys at him because he’s a phenomenal player.”
Griffin, the No.1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, was held to three baskets on four occasions, including Game 7 of the Clippers’ victorious first-round series against the Grizzlies, when he was 3 for 11 with just eight points in the 82-72 clincher at Memphis.
”I’m comfortable, but I just missed shots tonight,” Griffin said. ”It’s on me. ”It’s not because of our offense. It’s not anybody else’s fault. It’s my fault. I had open shots, I had post-ups — I mean, I shot the ball nine times. I just missed them.”
Anderson and Jason Smith each scored 17 points for the Hornets and Austin Rivers added 14. Anthony Davis, the top overall pick in the June draft, missed his fifth straight game because of an injured left ankle.
Caron Butler made a career-high nine 3-pointers on 15 attempts and finished with 33 points, becoming the first Clipper this season to score at least 30. The two teams combined for 33 3-pointers on 62 attempts.
Chris Paul had 20 points and eight assists for Los Angeles. Willie Green, who played for the Hornets two seasons ago before spending last season with Atlanta as a free agent, had 10 points.
Anderson led New Orleans to a 51-44 halftime advantage with 11 points. Neither team led by more than five until the Hornets opened up a 39-28 lead with an 8-0 run capped by Anderson’s 3-pointer with 5:58 left in the second quarter.
”Our defense was terrible. It’s almost embarrassing,” Paul said. ”Teams feel like they can come down and score on us every night. Guys can’t look in our eyes and feel like they can get by us. We have to take more pride in our play.”
Griffin missed his first seven shots before Green found him above the rim for an alley-oop dunk that cut the Hornets’ lead to 68-65 with 4:34 left in the third quarter. Butler tied it 33 seconds later with a 3-pointer, but the Hornets took an 11-point lead into the fourth and stretched it to 94-77, their biggest of the game, on Vasquez’s fifth and final 3-pointer with 6:41 remaining.
The Clippers got as close as 101-95 with two free throws by Griffin, a 3-pointer by Paul and two more foul shots by Jamal Crawford with 1:38 left. But their perimeter shooting went cold after that.
”We lost to a very — let me choose my words — not very talented team, but well-coached,” Paul said. ”I’ve watched every game that they’ve played. And one thing about Monty is, he’s going to have them playing hard. So waiting for the fourth quarter to turn it on was going to be tough for us. Greivis Vasquez was feeling good tonight. I think he’s on his way to his first All-Star game.”
Eric Gordon, who has played in only nine games for the Hornets since they acquired him from the Clippers with Al-Farouq Aminu and Chris Kaman in the Chris Paul deal, has yet to play this season due to soreness in his surgically repaired right knee. Gordon hasn’t played for New Orleans since April 22, when he had 17 points, six turnovers and shot 4 for 13 from the field in the Hornets’ 107-98 loss the Clippers at Los Angeles.
NOTES: Butler’s previous career-high for 3-pointers was five, on three occasions — the last time Nov. 12, 2012 at Minnesota. … The Hornets are 23-54 and the Clippers are 48-32 since Paul switched teams. He is averaging 23.5 points and 10 assists in the four games he’s played against his former team, two of which the Clippers have won. … Lopez, who blocked four shots in each of his previous three games, had one against the Clippers to extend his streak to 16 games.