The New Orleans Hornets lost a second-straight game by double-digits Monday, falling 90-78 to the Utah Jazz. Just as the Hornets took control of their own destiny in NBA Playoffs seeding, the team imploded with the back-to-back losses to Memphis and Utah. N.O.'s excellent defense allowed Utah to shoot a scorching 55 percent from the floor, and the Hornets' starting frontcourt -- Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza -- combined for just 15 points on 4-16 shooting.
The Hornets aren't limping into the playoffs, they are scuffing. There's little excuse for not being able to rack up points against a defense as French as Utah's, but even Chris Paul struggled to break through consistently. Meanwhile, Ariza allowed C.J. Miles to score 18 points on 6-9 shooting, and Gordon Hayward needed just eight shots to drop 14. Just ugly.
The Hornets will now likely land in the No. 8 spot in the West. The Spurs await.
In other action:
Mavericks 98, Rockets 91: Dallas won to heap pressure on the Lakers; the Mavericks are now a half-game ahead of L.A. as the champs take on the Spurs on Tuesday. The Mavs were sloppy (4-17 on threes, 20 turnovers) but their defense held it down. No Rockets shot 50 percent or better.
Thunder 120, Kings 112: The Thunder also moved a game closer to overtaking the Lakers. Kevin Durant scored 32 and Russell Westbrook added 30; the Kings simply don't guard any position outside of the frontline very well consistently. DeMarcus Cousins was a monster with 30 points, 18 of which game from the free throw line. That's what happens when you park in the paint!
Nuggets 134, Warriors 111: Let's keep the Lakers' theme to In other action alive, shall we? Why do the Lakers need to avoid slipping to No. 4? Because the Nuggets await. Denver shot 53 percent, hit 10 of 23 three-pointers and committed just eight turnovers in a high-octane victory over Golden State. Nine -- count them, nine -- Nuggets scored in double-digits. Even Kosta Koufos!
Magic 95, Sixers 85: Dwight Howard had a tidy 19 points and 13 rebounds against the good 76ers. Elton Brand broke out for 22, and Philly committed just 11 turnovers. But Orlando hit their threes (11-25), and it's tough to beat 'em when that happens.
Cavaliers 110, Pistons 101: Unbelievably, the Cavaliers now have a better record than the Minnesota Timberwolves. Cleveland got to win No. 18 against Detroit, thanks to some really solid bench play and a strong night from J.J. Hickson. Speaking of the Wolves ...