Collison's first double-double helps resurgent Hornets to victory

NEW ORLEANS -- The Hornets' two rookies left the New Orleans Arena with bright-colored, glittery suitcases specially selected for them by veterans, Darren Collison's with a "Little Mermaid" theme and Marcus Thornton's emblazoned with Tinkerbell's smiling visage.

"It keeps us grounded, I'll tell you that much," Collison said.

The way Collison and Thornton are playing lately, the Hornets might want to think of other ways to keep their egos in check.

Collison had season highs of 22 points and 11 assists for his first double-double, Thornton scored a season-best 21, and New Orleans won its third straight while snapping the Atlanta Hawks' seven-game winning streak, 96-88 on Saturday night.

"When you're a rookie you've got to come in and make a name for yourself," said Thornton, who in fact joined the Hornets with plenty of name recognition already, having starred at LSU last season. "Me and Darren from Day 1 when we came in, we knew we could play this game, and we just stuck together throughout ... and we prevailed today."

The resurgent Hornets made 12 of 17 3-pointers, with Peja Stojakovic hitting five during a 17-point outing. David West had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks.

Jamal Crawford scored 20 for the Hawks, who became the second straight division leader to lose in New Orleans after Phoenix fell to the Hornets on Thursday night.

"We really wanted this win, but they came in with confidence," said Joe Johnson, who scored 14 points for the Hawks. "Marcus Thornton was definitely the story of the game. We really didn't have an answer for him. Their guard play really helped then get over the hump. ... They shot lights out from the 3-point line."

Marvin Williams scored 17 points for Atlanta, and Josh Smith added 14 points and 10 rebounds, but the Hawks went 4 of 22 from 3-point range.

The Hawks also lost Mike Bibby to a sprained left ankle in the first quarter.

"He's a big part of what we do and we don't know how long he'll be out," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "We have enough guys and they will have to step up and pick up the slack."

New Orleans led throughout the second half, withstanding every Atlanta surge. Collison and Thornton, drafted in the first and second rounds, respectively, showed poise when it mattered, as they have in three straight games.

After Maurice Evans' driving layup as he was fouled pulled Atlanta to 59-56, Collison came back with a 3 and fast-break dunk. When Crawford's jumper made it 64-60 late in the third quarter, Collison hit his second 3, then West followed with a driving layup off the glass and Thornton a breakaway dunk to make it 71-60 heading into the fourth quarter.

Thornton created shots with slashing moves to the hoop and took open jumpers with confidence and without hesitation. He scored 10 points in the final period, notching one three-point play on a tough driving layup into a crowd and later hitting his second 3-pointer of the game to make it 81-71.

"His confidence for a young guy is as high as I've seen in this league," Hornets assistant coach Tim Floyd said. "He comes in really believing that he belongs."

Al Horford had 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Hornets outshot the Hawks 43.5 percent to 37.2 percent. Emeka Okafor had 10 rebounds and blocked three shots.

Atlanta jumped out to a 10-2 lead largely because of poor early shooting by New Orleans, which started 1 of 11 from the field. Bibby left the game during that stretch.

Soon after, Stojakovic got in rhythm from long range, hitting four straight 3-pointers during a 16-3 run that gave New Orleans an 18-13 lead.

New Orleans continued to pull away for much of the second quarter, going ahead 45-31 after Okafor's block sent Collison the other way for a fast-break layup.

Atlanta responded with a 9-0 run, highlighted by Williams' 3 and dunk to close the gap. Collison's jumper as the shot clock wound down gave the Hornets a 49-42 lead at halftime.

Game notes
Hornets reserve center Hilton Armstrong played for the first time since spraining his shoulder in practice last Monday. ... The Hawks won the only other meeting this season 121-98 in Atlanta one week ago. ... Okafor has had at least one block in all but one game this season. ... Collison has scored in double figures in six straight games. ... Smith, who came in leading the NBA with 34 blocks, added three more.


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