NEW ORLEANS (AP) Darren Collison and the New Orleans Hornets wanted to forget their recent stretch of futility and give their fans something to cheer about in the final home game of a disappointing, injury-plagued, non-playoff season.
A date with the worst team in the Western Conference, the Minnesota Timberwolves, did the trick.
Collison had 17 points and 11 assists, and fellow rookie Marcus Thornton scored 22 points to help the Hornets snap a five-game skid and trounce Minnesota 114-86 on Sunday night.
“We just wanted to (thank) our fans for supporting us, so we wanted to go out there and make sure we put on a good show,” said Collison, thrust into the starting lineup often with All-Star Chris Paul missing 36 games because of injuries.
“You can take the past and try to get better from it, but for the most part you want to leave all that (losing) in the past and just focus on getting ready for next year. I think we’ve got a good team coming in next year.”
Emeka Okafor scored 23 points, one below his season high, and reserve Julian Wright set a season high with 16 points to help New Orleans win for only the fifth time in 22 games.
“We wanted to come out with a lot of intensity and at least here at home, just wanted to get a win,” said David West, who had 10 points and 12 rebounds. “We did what we wanted to do in terms of coming out pretty aggressive and they laid down.”
Ryan Gomes scored 18 points for the Timberwolves, who played without coach Kurt Rambis after he was ejected for arguing a call early in the second quarter. The Wolves have lost five straight and 21 of their last 22 games.
When asked about his ejection, Rambis said, “I’m not addressing that.”
He did address his club’s play and wasn’t very complimentary.
“I don’t think we were purposeful out there,” Rambis said. “I don’t think that we were very attentive to what we wanted to do offensively. … Defensive-wise, we weren’t focused on what we had to do in order to get stops.”
The Hornets’ dominating performance allowed George Shinn to enjoy a victory in what was likely his last home game as majority owner of the club he founded in 1988. Shinn sat in his courtside seats next to wife Denise and with his daughter and two sons sitting nearby.
Shinn, who recently underwent treatment for prostate cancer, is negotiating to sell his shares of the club to minority owner Gary Chouest, a Louisiana native and owner of a company that supports the offshore oil and gas industry.
New Orleans led by as much as much as 28 in the third quarter when Okafor’s 6-foot hook made it 74-46, capping a 14-4 run that began with Okafor’s 14-foot jumper and included a 3-pointer by Morris Peterson. The game was never in doubt after that.
New Orleans outshot Minnesota 52 percent to 39 percent and outrebounded the Timberwolves 49-30. The Hornets also outscored the Wolves 70-32 in the paint, 18-8 on second-chance points and 23-6 on fast break points.
Al Jefferson returned to the lineup after missing two games while attending to a hospitalized family member, but had only five points and three rebounds in 30 minutes. Ramon Sessions scored 17 points for Minnesota and Jonny Flynn had 11.
New Orleans led 31-25 when the Wolves started to implode. Jefferson was called for traveling while attempting a reverse layup. Rambis argued against the call and drew two quick technical fouls, the first from official Eli Roe and the other from Ron Garretson, the second triggering the coach’s ejection.
Minnesota shot only 33 percent in the second quarter (4 of 12), while the Hornets shot 63 percent (12 of 19), closing the period with an 11-0 run to take a 58-39 lead into halftime.
NOTES: Minnesota (15-65), which plays Monday night in San Antonio, needs one win in its final two games to avoid matching the worst record in franchise history, set in 1991-92. … The Wolves have lost 11 straight on the road and are 5-35 on the road overall. … Minnesota has lost five straight in New Orleans and six straight against the Hornets overall. … Thornton has 20 games with 20 or more points.