The Spurs had struggled to eke out a pair of victories over the Hornets this season when New Orleans was missing its best player.
They could not muster the same magic Monday at New Orleans Arena because that player, shooting guard Eric Gordon, was back in the lineup.
Gordon scorched the Spurs (27-10) for eight points after they had sliced an 11-point Hornets lead to three with 8:20 left in the game, the presence of a true closer the difference between Spurs victories in two tight games earlier this season and Monday's 95-88 victory for New Orleans.
"They gave him a lot of money," Spurs guard Stephen Jackson said. "That's what he's supposed to do."
Indeed, the Hornets gave Gordon a four-year, $58 million contract to lock him up last summer despite his grumbling that he wanted to play in Phoenix, which had signed the restricted free agent to an offer sheet.
He didn't suit up this season until Dec. 29 because of a patella tendon disorder and bone bruise in his right knee, but was the difference between victory and defeat in the Hornets' past two games.
After the fifth-year guard from Indiana converted a game-winning 3-point play in an overtime victory in Dallas on Saturday, he made back-to-back-to-back stepback jumpers, launching over Danny Green, to provide enough cushion to get his team past the Spurs.
"They've got a closer now," Jackson said. "He took the game over, just going to work at the end of the game, doing what he wanted. That's what they were missing."
Green felt powerless to stop Gordon's stepback move.
Spurs come up empty in 'Big Easy'
San Antonio Express-News | Jan 8