NEW ORLEANS -- Hornets coach Byron Scott looks forward to giving Desmond Mason tough defensive assignments.
On Friday night, it was guarding Sacramento's Ron Artest.
"Every time Desmond seems to have the key assignment of guarding key guys on the other teams, he steps it up big time, and that goes for both ends" of the court, Scott said. "I am just a firm believer that if you go into the game thinking about stopping that guy, or keeping him under control, you have one of your better offensive nights."
It was tough to argue with that logic after Mason held Artest to nine points and scored 24 points of his own in the Hornets' 88-84 victory Friday night.
Mason ran the floor hard, hitting on postup moves and a spectacular alley-oop dunk set up by Bobby Jackson, who added 15 points against his former team in helping the Hornets stop a two-game losing skid.
"It's a good bounce back. It shows the character of the team," Mason said. "We lost two tough games and we felt like we should have won both of them. We had letdowns during the course of those games. We came back here, played aggressive, everybody contributed and we got a win."
Devin Brown, filling in for injured guard Chris Paul, scored 14 points for New Orleans. He hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired and a clutch free throw, both in the final 30 seconds, to thwart a Mike Bibby-led charge by the Kings.
"We were missing some shots we usually make, and they took advantage of it," said Sacramento guard John Salmons, who had 14 points coming off the bench. "But our defense was good enough to where we had a shot to win in the end."
Tyson Chandler had 13 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, and his basket inside gave the Hornets the lead for good at 84-82. Chandler and Mason helped the Hornets dominate the inside, with a 52-24 scoring advantage in the paint.
"Coach called my number a couple times," Chandler said. "When we came into the huddle he told me to get the ball and just go at it."
Artest had 12 rebounds for Sacramento, which had won two straight and three of four.
The Kings had a solid start to this game as well, taking a 50-46 lead into halftime. But they went on to miss their first 11 shots of the second half.
New Orleans took advantage, scoring the first 11 points of the third quarter, capped by David West's free throw after Kings coach Eric Musselman argued with the referees and was called for a technical foul.
The Kings ended up shooting 36.4 percent for the game, compared to New Orleans' 44.4 percent.
"We felt that if we held them to under 90 points that we could win the game, but obviously that wasn't the case," Musselman said. "The difference was field goal percentage tonight."
The Kings finally scored with 5:48 remaining in the period when Artest put back his own miss to make it 57-52.
New Orleans was only 8-of-20 in the quarter, but the Kings were 3-of-34. And New Orleans took a 67-60 lead into the final period after Mason soared through the lane with his right hand fully extended to slam down Jackson's alley-oop pass.
The crowd went wild as Mason, eyes bulging and arms extended to his side like wings, began trotting triumphantly back up the court.
The Hornets' lead didn't last long, however. Martin made a pair of jumpers, one of them a 3-pointer. Then Corliss Williamson, who didn't play in the first three quarters, spun into the lane for a scoop shot off the glass that tied the score at 73 with just under seven minutes to go.
Artest's jumper as the shot clock ran down put the Kings ahead briefly before Chandler and Mason scored on consecutive possessions to prevent the Kings from regaining the momentum.
"The last game, we had a lead in Toronto and we gave it up in the last couple minutes ... so I think guys really had that in the back of their mind and refused to give it up this time," Chandler said.
The game was the Hornets' fourth of six in New Orleans this season. They are 2-2 at the New Orleans Arena, which again will be their permanent home next season. ... Attendance was announced as 16,607. Capacity is 18,202. ... New Orleans had a 45-43 edge in rebounding. The Kings have been outrebounded in 13 of their last 15 games. ... Bibby has scored in double figures in his last 15 games, and has been held under 10 only twice this season.