Hornets hand Rockets a crushing blow
NEW ORLEANS (AP)
Eric Gordon would like to see New Orleans rewarded with some good karma in the NBA's draft lottery.
The Hornets will certainly need it the way they're playing lately, because all this winning isn't helping their chances of landing the top overall pick.
Gordon scored 27 points, Carl Landry had 20 points and 10 rebounds and New Orleans dealt a blow to reeling Houston's playoff hopes with a 105-99 overtime victory Thursday night, the Rockets' sixth straight loss.
''A lot of people expected us to tank, but you've got to play for the fans and give them something to look forward to next year,'' said Gordon, whose Hornets have won only 20 games all season, but also have seven victories in their last 10 games. ''We knew (the Rockets) were still trying to make the playoffs, but the best team won tonight.''
Goran Dragic scored 23 points and Chase Budinger tied a season-high with 22 points for Houston (32-31), which dropped one game behind Utah (33-30) for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with three games left.
''A very tough one for us. We needed this one tonight to hopefully try to get back in the playoffs,'' Budinger said. ''This one definitely hurts everybody, hurts our team and hurts our chances. ... You can never give up. There's definitely still hope for us. You've just got to win out and hope that other teams lose.''
The Rockets took their last lead when Luis Scola scored inside to make it 89-87 with 3:19 to go in the extra period.
Landry responded with an inside basket to tie it, then scored again underneath while being fouled after Ayon found him with a precision pass from the lane.
After Budinger missed a three-point attempt, Aminu added a short, but difficult rainbow jumper. Then Gordon broke up Budinger's pass and got the ball back from Greivis Vasquez for a breakaway dunk that made it 96-89 with 1:32 to go.
Houston couldn't recover.
''I really don't know what happened,'' said Scola, who finished with 11 points. ''I'm trying to find the answer and I just can't it. ... All of a sudden we started missing shots. We felt the pressure and could not finish the game.''
Courtney Lee had 15 points for the Rockets, while Marcus Camby had 14 — none in the second half when he was bothered by a sore back. Houston shot 51.2 percent in the first half, when Camby made seven of eight shots including several jumpers that spread out New Orleans' defense. In the second half and overtime, when Camby played less than nine minutes and missed his only two shots, Houston shot 35 percent (21 for 60).
''It's been tough. I've pretty much been playing off adrenaline and the urge to try and get into the playoffs,'' Camby said. ''I'm just trying to give the team everything that I got. I reached my limit today.''
Houston trailed most of the fourth quarter, but took the lead when Lee drained a transition three from the corner and Patrick Patterson added a fast-break layup to make it 83-81 with 2:30 to go.
The Hornets tied it on Landry's putback. The teams then exchanged one-point leads four times. After the Hornets had gone ahead 87-86 on Ayon's jumper, Budinger missed a late three for the lead and the rebound fell to Vasquez. Lee sneaked in to steal the ball from behind and was fouled, giving him a chance to put Houston back in front with 15.3 seconds left. He made only one free throw to tie it, however, then Gordon missed a step-back jumper in the final seconds of regulation, forcing the extra session.
After trailing by as many as 13 points in the second quarter, the Hornets pulled to 51-43 by halftime, then surged into the lead when they opened the second half on a 13-4 run. It started with Smith's consecutive jumpers and Gordon later added a three and two free throws he set up with a steal, putting New Orleans up 56-55.
Gordon reached the 20-point mark — for the fifth time in his eight games this season — in the third quarter, during which the Hornets outscored Houston 26-13. The Rockets made only six of 20 shots in the period, after which they trailed 69-64.
''That third quarter was terrible,'' Houston coach Kevin McHale said disgustedly after one of only three questions he answered before cutting off the postgame interview. ''We just need to get ready and play (Saturday night at home against Golden State). This is the NBA. You just need to get it done.''
NOTES: The Hornets improved to 6-2 in games Gordon has played. ... New Orleans, which was playing its home finale, won six of its last seven home games. ... The Rockets won the only previous meeting in Houston, also in overtime. The teams will meet there once more in the final regular season game for both teams. ... Announced attendance was 18,315, the Hornets' fifth sellout of the season.