Hornets 107, Bobcats 99
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
Anthony Davis let a tense shoving match affect his play all right.
The New Orleans rookie, in his first game back from a concussion, showed the poise of a tested veteran after a brief but punch-free feud with Charlotte big man Byron Mullens late in the second quarter. Davis scored 18 of his 23 points after the standoff, and also finished with 11 rebounds and five blocks as the Hornets handed the Charlotte Bobcats their third straight loss, 107-99 on Friday night.
''He plays a lot more aggressive, and with a lot more intensity when he gets angry,'' said fellow Hornets rookie Darius Miller, Davis' former teammate at Kentucky. ''So he got kind of mad, a little heated over the situation, and he pretty much dominated the game from then on out. So I've seen him do it before at Kentucky - many times.''
Ryan Anderson hit five 3-pointers and finished with 25 points for New Orleans, which has won three of its first five games despite being without injured star guard Eric Gordon. Reserve Brian Roberts added 16 points and eight assists and Al-Farouq Aminu scored 14 points.
Ben Gordon scored 34 points to keep Charlotte within single digits most of the way, but the Hornets withstood each Bobcats surge in holding the lead for all of the final three quarters.
''With the players we have we'll be good enough to get some baskets, but it's really on the defensive end where we have to improve,'' Gordon said. ''We have a young team and we'll just continue to work and try to grow in that area.''
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Davis' former Kentucky teammate and the second overall draft pick, had 12 points and six rebounds for Charlotte. Ramon Sessions scored 13 and Kemba Walker scored 11.
One game after setting a franchise-low with 62 points in an ugly loss to Philadelphia, the Hornets shot nearly 52 percent (43 for 83) against Charlotte. New Orleans also turned the ball over only nine times after committing 24 turnovers against the Hornets.
''We certainly didn't turn the ball over and that's something we talk about every day, taking care of the ball and making sure we get a good shot up'' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ''We beat a tough team. That team plays hard and they're hungry like we are. ... Our guys responded.''
The turning point was Davis' altercation with Mullens as the two started up court from under the Hornets' basket. The tussle sent teammates running to separate them and sent official Bill Kennedy somersaulting backward into the front row, where he landed in the lap of Dennis Lauscha, president of the Hornets and NFL's Saints. (Both clubs are owned by Tom Benson, who was sitting next to Lauscha and narrowly avoided Kennedy.)
Davis downplayed the incident afterward.
''We were just playing basketball. It was a tough,'' Davis said. ''This is what we love to do. No beef or nothing.''
Whatever the case, Williams loved the way Davis and the rest of his team responded.
''It was good to see our guys rally around each other and then after that keep their poise,'' Williams said. ''That is the thing about Anthony that I saw in the preseason. He's got a bit of an edge about him. He's a nice kid. He's the kind of kid you dream of coaching and yet you are not going to push him around.''
Davis then started scoring on an array of driving layups, putbacks and even a smooth baseline jumper from beyond 10 feet.
Davis' best play might have been an off-balance fast-break layup he tossed in off the glass as he was being fouled before crashing to the floor under the basket. He then hit the free throw for a three-point play to give New Orleans a 70-58 lead late in the third quarter.
Soon after, Anderson and rookie Darius Miller hit consecutive 3s to give New Orleans its largest lead at 76-62.
Charlotte managed to trim its deficit to five when Mullens' 3 made it 95-90 with four minutes remaining, but Aminu put back Davis' miss and Roberts added a tough layup to help New Orleans hold on.
''We're on the road and it was a slugfest, a tight game all the way,'' Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap said. ''There are little things that we are finding in these tough defeats. ... you can see little bits and pieces and we're heading in the right direction.''
NOTES: Davis' double-double was the first of his young career. He was playing in only his third game after missing two with his concussion. ... The Bobcats' 48.2 percent shooting (40 of 83) was the highest of New Orleans' first five opponents. ... Charlotte was without starting C Brendan Haywood, who has been away from the club for a family matter, and Gerald Henderson, who has a sprained left foot. ... Bobcats C Bismack Biyombo had 13 rebounds. ... Hornets coach Monty Williams said before tip-off it was ''unfortunate'' the Los Angeles Lakers did not give coach Mike Brown more than five games before firing him earlier Friday. ''Dwight (Howard) didn't start practicing until late, Kobe (Bryant) hasn't practiced in a long time and (Steve) Nash is out, and it takes time to put all that stuff together,'' Williams said. ''It's unfortunate because Mike's a really good coach and any time a guy loses a job, whether it be a player or a coach ... you're reminded of how fragile the business is.''