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Eric Gordon made his return to the lineup Saturday night. And for the better part of 24 minutes, he looked as if he'd never been away.
Gordon had 24 points and seven assists, helping the New Orleans Hornets overcome a 21-point first-half deficit and extend the Charlotte Bobcats' losing streak to 18 games with a 98-95 victory Saturday night.
The Bobcats are one game away from a winless December. They haven't won since Nov. 24 and are closing in on their franchise-record 23-game losing streak to close the 2011-12 season.
Gordon, who hadn't played since April 22 following arthroscopic right knee surgery, was 5 of 13 from the field and 12 of 14 from the free throw line. He had two steals and two turnovers.
"I felt pretty good, I was kind of surprised," Gordon said. "Now I'm just going to try to get better and better from here. I wouldn't have had a chance to help this team earlier with my knee, but I'm glad everything is working out now."
Ryan Anderson had 19 points and made a pair of 3-pointers in the final period as the Hornets won for the second time in three games.
Anderson was all smiles after the game.
"I haven't had open looks like that in quite a while," he said.
On a late possession, Gordon drove the lane drawing attention from defenders and passed the ball outside where Anderson knocked down a 3-pointer to push New Orleans' lead to six.
Roger Mason, who had all 13 points in the second half, added another 3-pointer on the next possession because of the attention the Bobcats were paying to Gordon.
Anderson said those are the tough moments defenders will be forced to contend with when they face the Hornets the rest of the way.
"He's a special player," Anderson said of Gordon. "There are not a lot of guys like him in the NBA. He hasn't quit warmed up to be 100 percent comfortable yet with this group on the court, but to come out and take over like that, that is the mark of a special player."
Hornets coach Monty Williams said he didn't expect that type of production from Gordon in his first game back.
"I certainly thought he would be able to help guys and make guys better," Williams said. "But I didn't think he'd score 24 points. His defense will get better the more he gets in shape."
The Bobcats had two chances to tie the game after the Hornets threw the ball away with 11 seconds left, but Ben Gordon and Ramon Sessions both missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 22 points and nine rebounds and Gerald Henderson added 19 points for the Bobcats.
Kidd-Gilchrist outplayed former Kentucky teammate Anthony Davis in the first half, scoring 18 points on 9 of 11 shooting.
"I had it going a little bit," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "That's going against my best friend, so of course it's special."
But the No. 2 overall pick left the game near the end of the first half after scratching the cornea in his right eye while diving for a loose ball.
He returned in the third quarter wearing protective goggles, but wasn't the same looking a little tentative and less aggressive. He had only four points in limited action in the second half.
"The thing with MKG that is incredible, and typical, is that he just played through it," Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. "He's a competitor and he gave us what we had and that was just sure willpower. Pretty incredible."
The Bobcats came in having lost 17 straight games, and the Hornets had lost 12 of their past 13 entering the game.
Charlotte jumped on the visitors early.
The Hornets led by as many as 21 in the second quarter before the Hornets stormed back to tie the game entering the final period behind nine third-quarter points from Greivis Vasquez and seven from Gordon.
New Orleans finally took the lead with 5:47 left when Anderson knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing to give the Hornets. Gordon followed with another 3-pointer on the next possession and they'd never give up the lead.
It was a dramatic shift of momentum after the Bobcats dominated the first half. Charlotte shot 64 percent from the field in the first half and took a 57-40 lead at the break, outscoring the Hornets 21-0 on fast breaks and 38-16 in the paint.
"We stopped being as aggressive in the second half as the first," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "We weren't attacking."
As for the losing streak, Dunlap said "eventually we are our own solution. We can't look external."
Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap picked up his first technical foul of the season for arguing a call during the third quarter. ... Hakim Warrick had his first double-double for the Bobcats with 12 points and 10 rebounds.