NEW ORLEANS -- Eric Gordon crouched near the 3-point line, dribbling between his legs, again and again, all but lulling Utah's Gordon Hayward into a trance.
The moment Hayward appeared sufficiently mesmerized, Gordon stepped back and made a 23-foot jumper, punctuating a game-changing performance against a Jazz squad that needed to win a lot worse than the Hornets did.
Gordon scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, and New Orleans won its first game under prospective new owner Tom Benson, 96-85 over Utah on Friday night.
"I just love those situations in the fourth quarter," Gordon said. "The second half is the toughest part of the game. ... We play hard defensively and keep the game close and I try to take over those games when it's late in the fourth quarter."
Chris Kaman added 19 points as the Hornets won for the third time in four games while delivering a critical loss to the Jazz, who entered the night 1 1/2 games out of the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
Hours earlier, Benson, the longtime owner of the NFL's Saints, agreed to buy the Hornets from the NBA, virtually assuring the club's long-term presence in New Orleans. Then Gordon returned from a two-game absence caused by back soreness and delivered a crowd-pleasing performance as the Hornets won their second straight.
"We want to give our fans something to be excited about going into the summer," Hornets coach Monty Williams said.
Paul Millsap scored 27 points for Utah, while Al Jefferson had 19. Derrick Favors added 12 points and 13 rebounds for the Jazz.
Greivis Vasquez and Al-Farouq Aminu each scored 11 points for the Hornets, who shot 55 percent (38 of 69).
Utah shot 45.2 percent (33 of 73) and went only 2 of 11 from 3-point range, but still led 82-81 after Jamaal Tinsley's floater in the lane in the middle of the fourth quarter.
New Orleans then stormed ahead for good when Jason Smith's jumper started a 13-0 run. Soon after, Gordon took over -- by design -- as the Hornets drew as many defenders away from Gordon as they could to set him up in isolation with his primary defender.
"We just couldn't stop Eric tonight," Hayward said. "We made him take some difficult shots and he was able to knock them down. He's a tough player to guard."
The run gave New Orleans a 94-82 lead with 2:18 to go, and Utah could not recover.
"We had opportunities to win the ball game and get out of here," Jazz coach Ty Corbin said. "We told them at halftime, 'You can't let this team hang around.' They get close at the end and they have guys that are capable of making shots, and that's what happened."
Utah fell to 10-22 on the road this season going into tonight's game at Memphis.