Mashburn scored 24 points and hit two big shots down the stretch as the Hornets won their season-high fifth straight game Friday night, beating the Denver Nuggets 94-88.
"Mashburn has been clutch in the fourth quarter in the past few
games,'' said New Orleans center Jamaal Magloire, who added 18
points and 12 rebounds. "We felt it would be no different
Mashburn is averaging nearly 30 points and seven rebounds during the Hornets' winning streak. He had 50 points in their 125-123 overtime victory against Memphis a week earlier, and 29 the next night in a two-point win at Detroit.
The Hornets took a 76-71 lead on two free throws by Courtney Alexander five minutes into the fourth quarter, but the Nuggets tied it at 76 on a 3-pointer by Shammond Williams and Howard's jumper with 5:38 left.
Mashburn's driving layup and free throw seconds later put New
Orleans up 79-76.
"We know when winning time is,'' Mashburn said. "We are a veteran ballclub, and we know what to do with that situation.''
David Wesley added 18 points for the Hornets and shot 5-of-6
from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. New Orleans was
16-for-19 from the line in the period, while the Nuggets went
Juwan Howard had 24 points and Nene Hilario added 23 points and 10 rebounds for Denver, which has lost 11 straight. The Nuggets shot 8-for-23 in the final period.
"It hurts,'' coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "In our last losses, we've led at the end of three quarters. We just come up short for no other reason than a lack of experience, and that is the reality of it all.''
The Nuggets started four rookies and had three of them -- Junior Harrington, Vincent Yarbrough and Hilario -- on the floor at the start of the fourth quarter, when they led 67-66.
Denver managed only three baskets, all by Hilario, in the last three minutes. The Hornets countered by converting 11 free throws in the last 2:41.
"The defensive stops and rebounds we got at the end were the
key,'' Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "George (Lynch) did an
excellent job on one play on Juwan and then went down to the other
end and got a free throw. That kind of sealed it for us.''
New Orleans stepped up its defense early in the second half,
forcing three turnovers. One led to Wesley's 3-pointer, and another
produced a dunk by Magloire for a 56-50 lead.
After Mashburn's free throw made it 59-52, the Nuggets went on
an 8-0 run, capped by Howard's three-point play to pull ahead
Denver took a 67-66 lead into the fourth quarter on Donnell
Harvey's dunk and a free throw by Chris Andersen in the last 40
seconds of the third.
Baron Davis participated in New Orleans' morning
shootaround but isn't expected to return until March 11. Davis has
missed 14 games because of surgery on his left knee. ... Robert
Traylor, a 6-foot-8 forward, had a thunderous dunk over Denver's
6-10 Chris Andersen in the first quarter. ... Ryan Bowen sat out
because of a stomach contusion sustained in Denver's game Tuesday
against Portland. ... Nikoloz Tskitishvili made his second start of
the year for Denver. ... The Nuggets had their fourth consecutive
month of double-digit losses with a 2-12 February.