Patrick Semansky, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Friday's performance — or lack thereof — wasn't intended as a benevolent gesture by the Utah Jazz.
It wasn't meant to be overdue payback for snatching this area's basketball franchise away from the Big Easy over three decades ago. And it wasn't a charitable gift for the future, either.
But the Jazz almost played like they were doing their part to help convince New Orleans to keep pro hoops in town.
And while Utah struggled in its roughest outing of the season — to put it mildly — the Hornets gave their anxious fans plenty to cheer about in a 100-71 blowout at New Orleans Arena.
"Give them a lot of credit," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said. "They were ready to play and we didn't have the energy or whatever the case may be to compete with them. They were just too quick for us."
The 16-10 Hornets were too everything for the 18-9 Jazz, who had season-lows in scoring (previous low of 78), rebounds (24 to N.O.'s 53), assists (17), field-goal shooting (35.8 percent), free throws made and percentage (10-for-20).
"It just wasn't our night tonight," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "We started missing free throws. We didn't rebound well at all. We were selfish on both ends. … (But) a lot of it was them. I've got to give all of the credit in the world to them. They came out and played us tough."
Heck, if this game doesn't excite basketball fans to support New Orleans — in danger of losing the Hornets after the NBA recently bought the franchise — then it's unlikely anything will.
This was the first time in 14 games New Orleans hit the century mark in scoring. The 29-point shellacking of the Jazz was also the biggest win over Utah in franchise history.
The Hornets jumped on Utah early and didn't stop jumping, outscoring the visitors with the familiar name in all four quarters.
Forward David West topped all scorers with 23 points, while Marcus Thronton came off the bench to spark the Hornets with 19. Those two combined to hit 15 of 19 shots for New Orleans, which shot 50.7 percent overall against the lifeless Jazz.
"They just manhandled us the whole game," Sloan said. "They beat us every quarter. They played terrific. They pushed the ball up the floor. They drove around us, dunked on us and everything else. And we didn't seem to have any answer any way we went."
That, even though Chris Paul had a so-so 11-point, 10-assist outing against his rival point guard.
It likely didn't help that the Jazz welcomed back three players.
Raja Bell returned to the starting lineup after sitting out three games with a groin injury. Backup big man Francisco Elson rejoined the Jazz after the Dutchman parted ways for three days, including Monday's game, to resolve a working visa issue in Canada.
And Mehmet Okur made his season debut — nearly 11 minutes off the bench — after an eight-month absence from an Achilles injury and surgery.
"It felt good. I didn't feel any pain or sore," Okur said. "But basketball-wise, the game wasn't there for me tonight."
No worry. It wasn't there for his healthier teammates, either.
While losing big on the road for the second time in less than a week, the Jazz's biggest problem seemed to stem from season-lows in energy and competitive spirit.
"It was just a bad game. Yeah, it was the worst game of the season," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "We couldn't hit no shots. Everybody missed shots and they made shots. They wanted it more. They came out and played harder than we did. It was just one of them nights."
Another example of the night's badness: Paul Millsap topped the Jazz in scoring and rebounding with 14 points and six boards.
The game was a rough start to the Jazz's pre-Christmas road trip. Utah's four-game swing continues tonight in Milwaukee.
"We play (tonight), so it's not like we've got to sit around and let this one linger," said Williams, who had 10 points and five assists. "We've just got to put forth a better effort (tonight). Now, I'll be really worried if we come out and play the same way."
NOTES: All 12 dressed players saw action for the Jazz, while rookie Jeremy Evans became the first healthy Utah athlete to be put on the inactive list. … Rookie Gordon Hayward scored more points (seven) in this one off the bench than he did in three previous starts combined (one point). … Utah's point total and rebounds were season-lows for a Hornets opponent.
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