Tim Duncan's season-high 28 points and late-game heroics proved too much for the feisty yet hapless Hornets to overcome.
Duncan sank a 13-foot running hook in a lane with 1.4 seconds left, and the San Antonio Spurs sent New Orleans to an eighth straight loss, 104-102 on Monday night.
Tony Parker added 20 points and a career-high 17 assists for the Spurs, who snapped a two-game skid, while Richard Jefferson added 14 points and Tiago Splitter added 12 points.
The Hornets inbounded the ball to Carl Landry for a desperation 3-pointer that could have won it as time expired, but the shot fell short, dooming New Orleans to its 14th loss in 15 games.
Jarrett Jack led the Hornets with 26 points and nine assists. Trevor Ariza tied a season high with 18 points and Landry also scored 18.
The Spurs led 102-98 after Duncan hit two free throws to reach his season high in points with 1:16 to go, setting up a thrilling finish to a game that included 15 lead changes and eight ties.
Jack hit a reverse layup in a crowd to make it a one-score game, then the Hornents got a pair of critical defensive stops to set up Landry's tip-ion of Jack's missed floater, tying it with 5.2 seconds left.
The Spurs immediately took timeout and then fed the ball to Duncan, who seemed to have no intention of giving it up as he went strong to the lane for his clutch running hook over Emeka Okafor, quieting a crowd that was on its feet and begging for one more defensive stand.
New Orleans led most of the third quarter and was up 80-74 late in the period after Jack's jumper, but Jefferson responded with one of his four 3-pointers and Parker converted a difficult driving scoop to cut it to 80-79 heading into the final quarter.
The Hornets, who had turned the ball over only eight times through the first three quarters, then turned it over six times in the fourth, which hurt in a game that went down to the wire and wound up being the Hornets' third-straight two-point loss to a Southwest Division opponent.
Both teams shot well, with the Spurs hitting 55 percent (41 of 75) and the Hornets, who had struggled to even break 90 recently, connecting on nearly 51 percent (42 of 83). New Orleans was strong inside, outscoring San Antonio 42-40 in the paint and outrebounding the Spurs 40-27.
Marco Belinelli had 12 points for New Orleans and Okafor added 10.
Gary Neal scored 10 for the Spurs, hitting both 3s he attempted.
Looking to get over the hump after consecutive close losses to Houston and Dallas, New Orleans started fast and led by as much as nine, 22-13, on Jack's pull-up jumper in the first quarter. The lead was short lived, however, as the Spurs responded with a 12-2 run that included three jumpers by Duncan — one of them a running bank shot — and two free throws by the veteran star forward to give the Spurs a 25-24 lead.
The Spurs built a first-half lead as large as six when Parker's 22-foot jumper made it 42-36. New Orleans clawed back to briefly take a lead on Ariza's 3 and the game remained tight for the remainder of the opening half, which ended with the Spurs leading 56-55.
Notes: The Hornets reached 100 points for the first time this season. ... Xavier Henry, who has been recovering from a right ankle injury, was activated for the first time but did not play. ... The Hornets home losing streak is now nine games. ... Movie stars Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Brooke Shields, Wanda Sykes and Camryn Manheim took time out from filming a basketball-themed movie in New Orleans to attend the game in courtside seats. They were among the announced attendance of 12,599.