Time ticked away Tuesday night and the crowd in the New Orleans Arena cheered as its New Orleans Hornets (7-0) were on their way to a 101-82 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers (1-7).
Rookie head coach Monty Williams stood courtside with his arms folded and smiled as his team continued to build their lead late in the game and hold onto it.
The defense is playing off the charts and this team of many new faces is gelling nicely. Perhaps the biggest reason to smile Tuesday evening was that it was his bench not only keeping the lead, but building on it.
Reserve guard Jerryd Baylessc ame up big for the Hornets with 15 points and nine assists, while fellow benchmate Willie Green scored 19 and took a bit of pressure off of the starting five. It was Bayless's best game since joining the team this offseason.
"It was just like, finally," said the third-year pro Bayless after the game. "I didn't have any doubts. I know what I can do and I've done it before in the NBA. It was just frustrating, but it was a transition and I feel like these last few games were my training camp."
Hornets all-star point guard Chris Paul was out there to celebrate with Bayless every time he came off the floor or over to the bench for a time out.
"You could see the frustration in his face at times because he knows how to play and sometimes it's not going as well as he'd like," said Paul. "So I was just happy to see him smiling and playing well, because we're going to need that all season long."
New Orleans had opened the game on a tear and led the Clippers, 20-5, early on in a dominating first quarter performance. Los Angeles stormed back in the second quarter and got within four at one point before trailing by seven at half time.
The Clippers kept it close throughout the third quarter, but then the reserve guards of the Hornets took over in the final period.
Bayless and Green made sure that Paul's typical early fourth quarter time on the bench wasn't wasted, as the duo scored the first 19 Hornets points to help build an 89-69 lead. For the first time this season, the bench was seeing production from more than back-up forward Jason Smith.
The young guards even allowed for Paul to not have to play a single minute in the fourth quarter.
"We've talked about how I shouldn't have to put Chris back in the game to save the day all the time," Coach Williams said.
Clippers forward Chris Kaman sprained his ankle very early in the game and did not return for the team, but his absence wasn't felt as Al-Farouq Aminu stepped up his game and scored 20 points.
He's a big part of the reason that Los Angeles stayed in the game throughout the middle quarters and even got as close as three points in the third.
Aminu had only been averaging 2.7 points this season before having to fill in for Kamen, and he was one of a handful of Clippers scoring in double digits. Ryan Gomes finished the night with 11, while Blake Griffin and former Hornet Rasual Butler each had 10.
Even though the Clippers were able to keep it competitive off and on, there was just no way they could compete with a Hornets' defense that has held all seven opponents this season under 100 points. New Orleans was also able to force 25 turnovers by Los Angeles, 11 of which were steals.
"You can't expect to win at home or on the road when you have that many turnovers, so we've got to do a much better job of valuing the possession of the ball," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Defense has been the focus in New Orleans this season with Williams and head assistant Mike Malone making sure that the team knows good defense will win games. There is enough offensive talent on the Hornets to keep them competitive with any team in the league. It's their defense that will push them over the top and notch victories.
"They're a defensive team," said Rasual Butler. "Chris and David West out there communicating and letting guys know what is going on."
Paul finished the night with 13 points and eight assists in 28 minutes while West added six points and six rebounds.
New Orleans will look to continue their record-breaking start Saturday night when they face the Portland Trail Blazers (6-3) in the New Orleans Arena.
Read more from Danny Cox at Examiner.com.