The return of Eric Gordon has the New Orleans Hornets playing like a more confident bunch. The Hornets hope that their young guard can lead them to a victory on Wednesday night against the red-hot Houston Rockets.
Gordon was one of the key pieces that the Hornets acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers on Dec. 14, 2011 for star guard Chris Paul. However, knee issues have allowed Gordon to suit up for only 13 games with New Orleans since the deal.
With the fan base growing frustrated, the 24-year-old sat out the first 29 games of this season because of right knee soreness before making his season debut in a win at Charlotte on Dec. 29. He then played in a loss to Atlanta on Jan. 1 before sitting out the following night in Houston to rest his knee.
New Orleans has won both games he has played since, including Monday's 95-88 triumph over the Southwest Division-leading San Antonio Spurs.
Gordon netted a game-high 24 points as the Hornets halted a seven-game home losing streak. Rookie Anthony Davis had 17 points and nine boards, while Greivis Vasquez had 14 points and 11 assists.
"It was a huge win for us," said Vasquez, who spoke highly of Gordon's play. "I thought we played great together. Eric is a great dude and a great player. He's really going to help us. It was a great team effort and a great win for us."
Gordon's return seems to be helping Vasquez, who is averaging 19.1 points and 10.6 assists in his past six games.
A third of the Hornets' victories this season have come with Gordon in the lineup and the club has won consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 2-3, but head coach Monty Williams is looking to keep his young team grounded.
"You don't want confidence to become arrogance because if you look at our record, we have no right to be anything else but desperate and play the game," he said after the win over the Spurs. "I would mix that confidence up with some desperation, and we need to continue to execute our game plan because we are going to play good teams every night, but to hold this team to 88 points is a great sign for our defense."
The Hornets were bested 104-92 by the Rockets without Gordon on Jan. 2, their second loss to the club this season. Both took place in Houston.
Vasquez had 15 points and 14 assists, while Ryan Anderson notched 18 points and seven boards in the loss.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 31 points and seven assists, while Omer Asik added 21 points and eight boards as Houston bested New Orleans for the fourth time in five meetings.
Houston has lost two straight and four of its last five in New Orleans, but comes into this game riding a season high-tying five-game winning streak.
The Rockets picked up a 125-112 home victory on Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, overcoming a 14-point deficit in the first half and getting 31 points from Harden.
Harden, who also had nine assists, tied Moses Malone's franchise record of 13 straight games with at least 25 points accomplished from Jan. 26-Feb. 23, 1982.
"We knew we couldn't take them lightly," Harden said of the Lakers. "They did a great job in that first half of getting easy shots on us and second half we started to pick it up defensively, got out in transition and made some easy shots."
Chandler Parsons added 20 points, while Jeremy Lin and Carlos Delfino donated 19 points apiece for the Rockets, who have won 10 of their last 12 games.
Houston, which hasn't won six straight since a seven-game burst from Jan. 13-23 of last year, is set to play seven of its next eight on the road and has won five of its past six as the visiting club.