Hornets perfect at home (10-0) in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Baron Davis' bad back didn't look so bad to the Toronto Raptors as they watched him lead the New Orleans Hornets to an 89-74 victory Wednesday night.

Davis sat out two games this week because of pain caused by a herniated disc but was a surprise starter and led New Orleans with 18 points while running the Hornets' offense for 40 minutes.

"Davis looked good to me,'' Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens said. "I don't know what his injuries are, but he played well.''

Characterizing his health at about 75 percent, Davis said decided to play after feeling relatively little pain when he woke up and stretched Wednesday morning.

"I feel loose, but I can't jump and I can't finish above the
rim,'' Davis said, pointing out that he barely made a dunk after a
steal in the second quarter.

He started slow, hitting one of his first four shots and turning
the ball over once. But his ballhandling and passing looked sharp
after that. He made several spin and behind-the-back moves as he
drove to the hoop.

"When you get out on the court you've just got to give it your all and whatever happens, happens,'' Davis said. "I've just got to tough it out and keep stretching and everything should work out.''

Davis also had eight rebounds and five steals -- and his five assists could have been higher if several crisp passes inside hadn't been mishandled or ended up as missed shots.

Jamaal Magloire added 16 points, and P.J. Brown 15 for New Orleans, now 10-0 at home.

Brown said he was surprised to see Davis on the floor during warmups and a little concerned over whether Davis was pushing himself to come back too early.

"I wasn't expecting him to play until maybe next week sometime,'' Brown said. "I though he played well for being out a couple games. He's our franchise guy and his energy takes us to another level ... but I'd say if you're not in great condition, don't play, because we'd rather have him later on in the season.''

Vince Carter scored 26 points for Toronto, but he had little
help as the Raptors shot 36 percent (30-of-83) and went stone cold
during a critical stretch of the fourth quarter.

"We got every shot we wanted on offense and it was just a night where we couldn't put it in the hole,'' Carter said. "It's just a situation where we've got to come back and play, come back and knock down some shots, go back to practice and go back to the drawing board.''

Antonio Davis had 11 rebounds but shot only 1-for-15 from the
field. Alvin Williams scored 13 for Toronto, playing with what
Wilkens said was a sore ankle.

New Orleans took control with a 16-0 spurt that took up the
first half of the fourth quarter. Elden Campbell had a jumper, a
layup after an offensive rebound and a pair of free throws during
the run, while Courtney Alexander hit two free throws and a
3-pointer that gave the Hornets a 77-60 lead with just under six
minutes left.

Toronto failed to score on eight straight possessions during the
run, missing seven shots -- one after an offensive rebound -- and
turning the ball over twice.

"Our whole game picks up when our defense picks up and we start playing in the passing lanes and causing havoc,'' Brown said. "Our transition game starts and we start making layups.''

Jamaal Mashburn scored 10 for New Orleans, as did Campbell.

Both teams struggled in the first half.

Four minutes into the second quarter the Hornets were shooting
about 25 percent and looking sluggish compared to their victory in
Chicago a night earlier. But the Raptors could only push their lead
as high as nine.

New Orleans then put together a quick 7-0 run to tie the game at 31. It started with a 3-pointer from Mashburn. Davis followed with layup after putting the ball behind his back during the drive. Davis then stole the ball and dunked.

The teams fought evenly through the rest of the period. After
Carter caught a high pass in the lane and converted a reverse dunk,
the Hornets missed their next shot, but Davis stole the ball back
quickly and fed Magloire for a tomahawk jam to give the Hornets a
41-40 lead at halftime.

Game notes
The Hornets, who led 63-58 after three quarters, are 11-0
when leading entering the final period. ... A night after leading
the Hornets with 25 points in a victory at Chicago, David Wesley
missed all eight of his shots and did not score. ... Singer Justin
Hopkins struggled with the Canadian anthem. He appeared to have
forgotten the lyrics and relied on the scoreboard, but verses came
up slowly, causing uncomfortable pauses. He also misread some of
the words and at one point sang "true land of the brave,'' instead
of "true north strong and free.'' Hopkins had no problems with the
American national anthem. ... Bryce Drew, activated before gametime
after missing the first 18 games of the season with a fracture near
his eye, got his first playing time late in the fourth quarter.


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