NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Baron Davis brought pro basketball back to the Big Easy with a dribbling, passing and shooting exhibition reminiscent of "Pistol Pete'' Maravich.
Despite back spasms that caused him to sit out much of the preseason, Davis had 21 points and 10 assists as the Hornets beat New Orleans' old team, the Utah Jazz, 100-75 Wednesday night in the regular season opener for both teams.
"In the NBA you've got to play through a lot of things and that's what I did,'' Davis said. "We needed a spark and I thought it was my time to step up.''
The game marked the regular season return of the NBA to New
Orleans for the first time since the Jazz left for Utah in 1979. A standing-room only crowd of 17,668 was into the game from beginning to end.
"That's what we envisioned -- them really getting into the game and being loud and boisterous,'' Hornets coach Paul Silas said. "That helps us so much. I can see us having a good home advantage, and that's what this is all about.''
Karl Malone and John Stockton, the two oldest players in the
league, led Utah with 20 and 14 points. With Andrei Kirilenko and
DeShawn Stevenson also in the starting five, the Jazz are among
only three teams to start two players age 21 or younger.
Stevenson, a first-time starter in his third season with the Jazz, eclipsed his 4.9-point average from last season midway through the first quarter by hitting his first three shots. He finished with 12.
The Jazz were within 68-64 after Mark Jackson hit a running hook
at the third-quarter buzzer. But the Hornets were able to maintain
the lead and outscored Utah 32-11 in the fourth.
"We haven't been able to sustain anything offensively,'' Sloan
Sloan predicted success for a Hornets team that struggled through the preseason with as many as four starters out with injuries. Only center Elden Campbell was out Wednesday.
"They'll probably win 60 games without breaking a sweat,'' Sloan said.
"They played together, they passed the ball, they set screens,'' Stockton added. "That's what we want to be very shortly.''
A day before the game, Davis said his spasms were acting up, but he felt he needed to play through the pain. He started slow but in the second quarter picked up the pace.
He set up Wesley on a pair of fast breaks, and fed a no-look
pass through a crowded lane to Jamaal Magloire for a dunk.
"I had a good opportunity because the way they were playing me, I was able to get in the lane and create shots for teammates and hit shots for myself to really get us going,'' Davis said.
Davis hit four 3-pointers, including one from well behind the
arc as the shot clock expired on a broken play to give New Orleans
a 43-36 lead. Another gave New Orleans a 49-38 lead at halftime.
"He gives off a lot of energy. He makes everybody else go,'' Mashburn said. "I think Baron sometimes overstates his pain, but he's a really great point guard, something we've always known we've had.''
Davis was clearly still in pain, although he only let it show when he came out of the game, walking to the bench with his back arched awkwardly and a grimace on his face. He played 38 minutes, stretching on the sidelines when he was out.
"When he's out there he doesn't really feel it, so as long as I keep him on the floor he's fine,'' Silas said. "He can play 39 minutes. That's not too many for him.''
Jerome Moiso, one of the players getting more time off the bench
with Campbell out, hit all five of his shots for 10 points.
The Hornets retired Maravich's No. 7 at halftime. The giant mock jersey was similar to the Hornets' design but with the old Jazz color scheme of purple and yellow. ... The crowd booed when
the public address announcer began introductions of the long-departed Jazz, but the crowd erupted in cheers when former Louisiana Tech star and Summerfield, La., native Karl Malone was introduced. ... Louisiana natives scored the first two baskets of the NBA's second coming to New Orleans. Malone scored the first and P.J. Brown the second. Brown
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