(AP) — The New Orleans Hornets are off to their best start in franchise history and one of two remaining unbeaten teams in the NBA thanks to their defense. The Los Angeles Clippers may have trouble ending a lengthy losing streak in this series if they can’t find a way to score more consistently.
The Hornets will try for their 14th consecutive win over the Clippers when they meet at New Orleans Arena on Tuesday night.
New Orleans (6-0) and the Los Angeles Lakers are the only NBA teams still without a loss. While the Lakers are doing it by putting up a league-high 114.0 points per game, the Hornets have relied on their defense, which is holding opponents to 91.5 per game and hasn’t allowed a team to reach 100.
Coming off a 96-93 win over Miami on Friday, they had their best defensive effort of the season by holding Milwaukee to 38.6 percent shooting in an 87-81 victory Saturday.
Milwaukee stayed close in the fourth quarter after trailing by 13 in the third, but New Orleans held the Bucks scoreless over the final 1:48.
The Hornets came into this season focused on defense after they allowed 102.7 points per game during an injury-plagued 2009-10 – the highest average since 1995-96 when they gave up 103.4.
“The crazy thing is we’re still not where we want to be defensively,” said Chris Paul, who had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists Saturday. “I think that says a lot about our team. Right now this team gets mad when other teams score.”
David West had a season-high 25 points, making 10 of 12 shots after going 10 for 26 the previous two games. West has averaged 22.5 points and shot 52.6 percent during the 13-game win streak over the Clippers.
Los Angeles has averaged 90.9 points during that skid and comes into the first meeting of this season struggling offensively.
The Clippers (1-6) averaged 87.5 points and shot 39.9 percent in their first four games. They’ve been better over the last three, averaging 106.0 points and shooting 48.4 percent, but have dropped two in a row after a 107-92 win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday.
Los Angeles blew an 18-point lead in the first half and fell 109-107 in double overtime at Utah on Saturday. Eric Gordon, who tied the game in the final seconds of regulation with a dunk, missed a runner in the lane that would have won it at the end of the first overtime. He finished with 27 points.
Averaging a team-best 21.1 points, Gordon is one reason the Clippers believe things will turn around soon. Blake Griffin is another.
After setting a career high with 26 points in Friday’s 111-104 loss in Denver, the rookie – who missed last season with a fractured left patella – had a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with 16 points against the Jazz.
“I like our intensity,” Griffin said. “We’ve gotten better and better over the past seven games. We got to make that next step and continue to grow.”
Griffin will try to help the Clippers post their first win over the Hornets since a 100-90 victory at New Orleans on Jan. 8, 2007.
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