NEW ORLEANS — The new year opened with a scene hauntingly familiar from the past for the New Orleans Hornets.
Josh Smith scored 10 of his team-high 23 points in the third quarter to lead the Atlanta Hawks to a 95-86 victory over the Hornets on Tuesday night.
New Orleans was outscored 28-14 in the decisive period, turning a 50-44 halftime lead into a 72-64 deficit. The Hornets were six of 16 in the quarter, committed four turnovers and were outscored 6-0 in the final 2:22.
On Dec. 22 Indiana held the Hornets to seven points in the third quarter, resulting in an 81-75 loss.
”We just didn’t put up much of a fight,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ”We just didn’t have execution and didn’t play with a lot of force tonight. Their bigs did a very good job of dominating the game.
The Hawks frontcourt of Smith, Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia combined for 55 points, 26 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals and five blocked shots.
Kyle Korver added 14 points for Atlanta, which spoiled the homecoming of Hornets guard Eric Gordon.
Gordon, playing in his first home game this season, scored 11 points on 5 of 17 shooting. Gordon, who had spent most of the season recovering from a knee injury, made his season debut in a victory over Charlotte this past Saturday.
Ryan Anderson scored 23 points, Greivis Vasquez 17 and Robin Lopez 10 for the Hornets, who had won two of their past three. Vasquez, selected the NBA Player of the Week on Monday, recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 10 assists.
”We had a letdown in the first two quarters,” Smith said. ”I wanted to come out with energy and effort, so I was happy when I made some shots in the third quarter and was very efficient. ”
Gordon, logging 23 minutes, and was of 2 of 10 in the second half.
”I felt like I missed some shots I should have made,” he said. ”In the second half they did a good job keeping me from getting to the goal.”
The Hornets’ Anthony Davis struggled from the floor, making four of nine shots for nine points but had 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
New Orleans also struggled from the free throw line, making 4 of 12, the .333 percentage setting a franchise record.
The Hornets had defeated the Hawks in six of the past 10 meetings and appeared to be in control early, leading 21-10 late in the first quarter. But Atlanta closed on a 12-5 run with Vasquez and Lopez on the bench for the final three minutes, cutting the lead to 26-22.
In the fourth quarter, New Orleans twice cut the lead to two points, the last coming on Vasquez’s free throw with 4:14 remaining. But Korver answered with a trey off of a Horford assist to put the Hawks up 87-82 with 3:57 left.
”I think everyone was waiting on (Gordon) to do something, be Superman,” Williams said. ”That’s not what we’re about. We’re a team and I got to find a good rotation.”
NOTES: Smith’s 13 rebounds put him over the 5,000 mark for his career. … Vasquez’s nine rebounds left him one short of what would have been his second triple-double of the season. … Atlanta has two days off before traveling to Detroit, the final leg of a three-game road trip.