NEW ORLEANS — The Charlotte Hornets and the New Orleans Pelicans will be on the back end of games on consecutive nights when they meet Saturday in the Smoothie King Center.
And both are feeling pretty good after the way the front ends went Friday night. The Hornets (8-3) overcame a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to end the Atlanta Hawks six-game win streak with a 100-96 home victory.
At the same time the Pelicans (3-10) were welcoming back Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday in a 113-101 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in the Smoothie King Center.
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“The back to backs tell a lot about how much you want to win,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “That's what the good teams do. You can't run from it.”
Charlotte didn't back down when Atlanta's Dwight Howard threw an elbow at the head of Hornets center Cody Zeller and was ejected with 5:38 left in Friday's game. The Hawks led by three when Howard was called for the Flagrant-2 foul.
The Hornets scored the next nine points, including seven by Kemba Walker, to take control.
Zeller, a fourth-year forward, finished with 23 points, making 9 of 10 shots from the field.
“He gets better every year. He gets better every day,” Walker said of Zeller. “Skill-wise he gets better and he gets better with his confidence. He works hard each and every day to improve his game. It shows every night.”
Friday's game started a stretch in which the Hornets play 18 games in 32 days. They won't have consecutive days off until Dec. 17-18.
“This is a good way to start this stretch,” Clifford said. “If we're a good team, the kind of team that we need to be, then we've got to find a way to play a good game on the road and get a win.”
Getting wins against the Pelicans has been easy for most teams this season, but the Hornets haven't won in New Orleans in their previous three seasons under Clifford.
New Orleans entered Friday's game with the worst record in the NBA, but Davis had 38 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Holiday had 21 points and seven assists off the bench as the Pelicans won their second consecutive home game.
“Their record is misleading,” Clifford said. “When you look at them play they have had a lot of injuries and they've lost a lot of close games.”
Davis returned from a one-game absence with a bruised quad and Holiday made his season debut after being away from the team to be with his wife Lauren as she gave birth to the couple's first child and underwent brain surgery.
“I think I did pretty well,” Holiday said of his debut in which he had 10 points and four assists in the fourth quarter. “It was really just the initial hit of being out there and in the first four minutes or whatever when I need to get a feel for the game. From there, I just felt more comfortable toward the end of the game.”
Holiday played 21 minutes and coach Alvin Gentry said he plans to gradually increase Holiday's minutes but doesn't have a timetable for when his point guard will return to the starting lineup.
“It's tough for anyone to sit out all of training camp and all of the preseason and also the first 12 games of the season,” Gentry said. “It's going to be a little bit of an adjustment period for him.”