Backcourt Duo Carries Hornets Past Sonics
New Orleans/Oklahoma City 105, Seattle 99
SEATTLE, Nov. 26 (Ticker) -- As the backcourt of J.R. Smith and rookie Chris Paul continues to improve, so do the surprising New Orleans Hornets.
Smith matched his season high with 19 points and Paul had 17 and 10 assists as the Hornets posted a 105-99 victory over the Seattle SuperSonics.
A big reason for the Hornets' success can be credited to Smith and Paul, a pair of 20 year olds who are playing beyond their age.
"All they're doing right now is playing basketball," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "They're growing up a lot quicker than expected."
Smith scored nine points in the fourth quarter, including seven in a 10-6 surge which helped the Hornets build a double-digit lead with less than four minutes remaining.
"(Smith) hit some big shots for us," Scott said. "It's a sign of maturity. Chris did a great job of penetrating and kicking it to him for some big threes. Those are shots he can make on a regular basis. Tonight he was able to do that."
After Vladimir Radmanovic's 3-pointer cut the SuperSonics' deficit to 86-80 at the 7:16 mark, Smith answered with a shot from behind the arc 90 seconds later. Seattle's Ray Allen hit a jumper on the other end and Desmond Mason made a pair of free throws with just over five minutes to go to make it 90-82.
Smith then forced a turnover and grabbed an offensive rebound before making two free throws with 4:29 remaining. Smith capped the burst with a long jumper to push the advantage to 96-86.
The Sonics made a late push, cutting the deficit to 100-96 on Luke Ridnour's jumper with 38 seconds to go, but Paul and P.J. Brown combined to hit 5-of-6 from the line to seal the victory.
"We threw a trap at them, full-court press," Seattle forward Nick Collison said. "I don't think they executed very well. At that point it's nice to make a run, but the game was over pretty much. We'd already made too many mistakes to win the game."
Smith made 7-of-11 shots, including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc for the Hornets, who made 50 percent (5-of-10) of their 3-pointers. They entered the game as the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the league at 25.2 percent.
"(I) try to get into the lane as much as possible," said Paul, who finished three rebounds shy of a triple-double. "We got great shooters, David West, P.J. Brown, J.R. Smith, they just make shots. (The Sonics) didn't want me to get to the lane, but J.R. and those guys were just knocking down shots."
The Hornets also held a distinct advantage in free throws, making 34-of-41 from the line while the Sonics hit just 12-of-18.
"I challenged the guys as far as trying to get to the line," Scott said. "The last few games we have been getting there on a regular basis and making our free throws, so that is important."
Rashard Lewis scored 21 points and Allen added 15 for Seattle, which had six players in double figures but still lost its third straight game.
"It's frustrating," said Allen, who fouled out with 4:29 to go. "I'm not worried about the offense, but the effort defensively, that's got to change."