Hornets-Hawks Preview

While the New Orleans Hornets have not panicked when facing

second-half deficits, a comeback could be tough against a surging

Atlanta Hawks team that rarely loses at home.

The Hornets try to win their seventh straight and season-high

fourth in a row on the road Friday night while preventing the Hawks

from continuing their push toward the top of the Southeast


New Orleans (27-16), which set a franchise record by overcoming

a 23-point deficit in the second half to beat Sacramento on Dec.

15, has won six in a row despite trailing by at least 12 after

halftime in three of its last four games.

The most recent comeback was a 103-102 overtime victory over

Memphis on Wednesday when the Hornets rallied from 15 down in the

third quarter.

“Sometimes you just have to say, ‘Thank you, Lord,’ and move

on,” coach Monty Williams said. “This is one of those games.”

It also was one of those games Dec. 26 when the Hornets fell

behind the Hawks (28-15) by nine at halftime before Chris Paul

scored 13 of his 22 in the third quarter en route to a 93-86


“We just don’t get rattled,” Paul said Wednesday after scoring

20 points with 12 assists. “We’ve been in those situations before

and we know what we need to do to win. This one right here was a

combination of hard play – and luck, too. You’ve got to be


The Hornets have been fortunate to have Marcus Thornton’s spark

off the bench. The energetic shooting guard didn’t enter

Wednesday’s game until 5:20 was left in the third quarter, but he

finished with 17 points and hit the go-ahead layup with six seconds


New Orleans outscored the Grizzlies by 12 with Thornton in the

game and improved to 6-0 when he scores at least 12.

“We feel good going to Atlanta. We’re playing well,” he said.

“It starts with defense. That’s what carries on.”

The Hornets are allowing an average of 87.5 points in regulation

during their win streak – three of the games went to overtime – and

are among the league leaders in scoring defense at 92.2 per


They now try to win four in a row away from home for the first

time since Jan. 25-Feb. 6. New Orleans, though, will face a Hawks

team scoring 102.5 points per game while going 11-1 at Philips

Arena since Nov. 22.

Atlanta returns home following Tuesday’s 93-89 overtime victory

over Southeast-leading Miami. Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford had 19

points apiece and the Hawks won their sixth consecutive game

decided by five points or fewer.

“Everything we got tonight, we really had to earn,” said coach

Larry Drew, whose team has won 11 of 14 to move within two games of

the division lead.

Johnson and Crawford could give Paul and the Hornets backcourt

plenty of problems from the perimeter, but Atlanta’s frontcourt

will likely be at a disadvantage.

Starting center Al Horford sprained his right ankle Tuesday and

will probably miss at least two games. Plus, forward Marvin

Williams is expected to miss a 10th straight game with a back


“We’ve got guys on our bench who are hungry for an opportunity

and hungry to prove their worth,” guard Maurice Evans said. “We’ve

got a lot of depth and hopefully we’ll take advantage of it.”

One of the players who may need to pick up the slack is Josh

Smith, who has posted five consecutive double-doubles against the


Smith had 17 points and 17 rebounds as the Hawks won 121-98 in

New Orleans’ last visit to Atlanta on Nov. 14, 2009. Johnson scored

26 and Crawford added 21 in that victory as the Hawks took

advantage of a Hornets team without Paul (ankle).