ATLANTA (AP) — The New Orleans Hornets rarely win back-to-back games.
Greivis Vasquez had never put up a triple-double in the NBA.
Both happened Friday night.
Vasquez scored 21 points, dished out 12 assists and grabbed 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which rallied from a 14-point deficit in the first half and withstood a late charge by the stumbling Atlanta Hawks for a 111-100 victory.
For the last-place Hornets, it was a second straight victory — just their fourth winning streak of a rebuilding season.
While many contributed, including Eric Gordon with 27 points and Ryan Anderson with perhaps the biggest shot of the game, Vasquez led the way.
“To see him take command of a game like that says a lot about him, the work ethic, his ability to take coaching, which a lot of NBA guys can’t do,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “A lot of NBA guys don’t want to be coached. They want to be babied and coddled. That kid is probably the toughest guy I’ve been around.”
Vasquez came into the game ranked third in the league in assists, but he’d never had an all-around game like this.
“This one really feels great,” the third-year guard said. “It’s special because it’s my first one, and with a win. I can’t be satisfied. I want more, and I want to help the team win games.”
Al Horford drove for a slam that cut the Hornets’ lead to 98-94 with 3 minutes remaining. But Anderson sank a 3-pointer that caught the front of the rim, bounced high off the backboard and fell through. Anderson pumped his right fist as he headed the other way; the Hawks never got closer than five the rest of the way.
But the Hornets really won this game late in the first half, and with a totally dominant performance in the third quarter, when New Orleans outscored the Hawks 29-16, forced four turnovers and limited Atlanta to 5-of-16 shooting.
“We played tough,” Vasquez said. “When we play tough, and with this mindset that we’ve got to fight, we’ve got to bump people, we’ve got to be physical, we’re a better team.”
The Hawks had a familiar swoon after halftime and took another blow in a once-promising season. Atlanta started out as one of the NBA’s most surprising teams but has lost 12 of 19 since Jan. 1, falling off the pace in the Eastern Conference.
“We have to develop a killer instinct,” coach Larry Drew said. “If we want to be a team that’s mentioned with some of the better teams, we’ve got to learn to put teams away. Right now, we’re just not very good at that.”
Josh Smith led Atlanta with 23 points and Jeff Teague added 21.
But the way the year is going, Smith is facing more and more questions about just how long he’ll be in Atlanta. His contract is up at the end of the season, and there’s persistent speculation that he might be dealt before this month’s trade deadline.
“Every year, people ask me the same questions,” Smith said. “They asked me the same questions four years ago, and I’m still here. I’m not worried about rumors. I’m just going to keep playing.”
At the start, it looked as though the Hawks would win in a breeze. They led 45-31 after John Jenkins’ free throw midway through the second quarter.
Atlanta lit it up from long range, shooting 9 of 16 from outside the arc in the first half. But New Orleans got hot near the end of the period, closing the gap to 55-50 by halftime.
The Hornets kept it up in the second half, leading by as many as 14 themselves. Vasquez knocked down three shots from 3-point range and Anderson went 4 of 7 beyond the line. New Orleans finished 45 of 86 from the field, including 9 of 16 on deep shots — even after Williams complained before the game about his players being too focused on shooting 3-pointers.
The Hornets might make some silly mistakes, but they’re clearly a team with a promising future.
Youth certainly won out on this night.
“I wasn’t even tired,” Vasquez said. “That was the key: we were playing with energy. Sometimes teams push us around because we’re young kids. We played physical and we got a win.”
Kyle Korver went 3 of 6 from 3-point range, setting an Atlanta franchise record with his 43rd consecutive game making at least one shot beyond the arc. He broke the mark set by Mookie Blaylock, who had 42 in a row during the 1996-97 season.
But the Hawks struggled to find a spark in the second half.
“Whenever you give a team a little hope, especially a team that’s young, you’re going to be in for a battle,” Smith moaned.
NOTES: The Hornets put together a season-high four wins in a row last month, and three other times they’ve won back-to-back games. … Hawks C Zaza Pachulia returned after missing four games with a sore right Achilles. He played 18 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing three rebounds. … G Devin Harris played his second straight game for Atlanta after being bothered by a sore left foot. He had only two points. … Anderson scored 19 for the Hornets, while Robin Lopez chipped in with 17 points and eight rebounds.