NEW ORLEANS (AP) - David West and the New Orleans Hornets keep demonstrating they won't quit on each another - or their rookie coach - when play gets sloppy and deficits grow large.
West had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and the Hornets overcame a 12-point deficit in the second half to win their fifth straight, 85-81 over the Toronto Raptors on Monday.
``Some nights you're just not able to get it going, but I thought we stayed steady,' West said. ``Even when we got down, I don't think we lost our poise or lost control. Guys kept under control and we kept our defense set.'
For much of the game, it looked like the Hornets' winning streak would end with an ugly home loss to a Raptors squad that came in on a three-game skid.
Yet even as they struggled to score, the Hornets continued to show why they're among the top defensive teams in the league, forcing 16 turnovers for the game and holding the Raptors without a field goal during the final 4 minutes. That kept the Hornets within striking distance even through they shot only 39 percent (34 of 87).
``This was a big win for us because this is a game we could have very well lost and we would have felt bad about it,' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ``We've shown we can come back. It's not always the way you draw it up. We have character guys who show up and they're not going to panic.'
The Hornets pulled off the largest comeback in franchise history when they erased a 23-point deficit against Sacramento on Dec. 15. Since then, they also have overcome deficits of 13 at Washington on Jan. 1 and 16 at Houston last Friday night.
After the Hornets erased Toronto's lead, West calmly hit a 19-foot jumper with 31.7 seconds to go put New Orleans ahead 83-81. He then preserved the lead with a block on Amir Johnson in the paint, got the rebound, was fouled and hit two free throws for the final margin.
``The biggest thing for us is to try to close the door when we've got an opportunity to win,' said West, who was 10 of 18 shooting. ``We've just got to be willing to step up and make plays, down one, up one, whatever it is.'
Emeka Okafor had 17 points and a season-high 16 rebounds, tying a Hornets franchise record with 12 offensive rebounds. Reserve guard Jarrett Jack added 17 points - 15 in the second half - while Chris Paul had 11 assists.
Williams said he allowed Jack, acquired early this season in a trade with Toronto, to play more than usual (26:56) because it seemed he knew where to find openings to score against his old teammates.
``Jarrett had it going,' Williams said. ``In a game like this, playing against his former team, you know a guy may have something special in the tank for that team.'
DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points and Johnson scored 17 points for Toronto, which led from early in the second quarter until late in the fourth.
``It's definitely frustrating. I wish we could have gotten that game,' DeRozan said. ``That would have been a big game for us. We can't let it get away in the last three minutes.'
Toronto shot 44.6 percent (33 of 74), but was hurt by turnovers and New Orleans' 19 offensive rebounds, which helped the Hornets score 15 second-chance points.
Ed Davis had 11 points and 12 rebounds, and Andrea Bargnani added 11 points for the Raptors, who were without starting forward Linas Kleiza because of his sore right knee. Former Hornets first-round draft choice Julian Wright started for Kleiza and had 11 points and six rebounds, helping Toronto build its 44-37 halftime lead up to double digits.
Using a 13-6 run that began with Wright's driving layup as he was fouled and which ended with Wright's dunk, the Raptors took their largest lead at 57-45.
Toronto still led by nine on Sundiata Gaines' 22-foot bank shot with 2:34 left in the quarter, but did not score again in the period while Jack hit a jumper, two free throws and a driving floater to cut it to 65-62.
The Hornets finally tied it at 76 on Thornton's free throws with 4:57 left, then took a brief lead on Jack's reverse layup.
West scored the Hornets' final seven points, converting Jack's feed inside to put the Hornets up 80-79 and hitting a free throw to make it 81-79.
DeRozen then hit two free throws to tie it at 81 with 40.4 seconds to go, but Toronto would not score again.
NOTES: Raptors reserve guard and former Hornet Jarryd Bayless missed his second straight game with a sore left ankle. ... The Hornets are 15-1 at home when holding opponents to 100 or fewer points. ... Announced attendance was 15,155. ... The Hornets' five-game winning streak is their longest since opening the season 8-0. ... Toronto entered the game allowing 105 points per game and an opponent field-goal percentage of .487.
The Associated Press News Service
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