Hornets Win Fourth Straight Game
New Orleans/Oklahoma City 87, Memphis 79
OKLAHOMA CITY, Jan. 18 (Ticker) -- David West and rookie Chris Paul are the two biggest reasons why the New Orleans Hornets look nothing like they did last season.
West scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and Paul sank a dagger 3-pointer in the final minute as the Hornets surpassed their win total of last season with an 87-79 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.
"It's not an achievement, it's what we expected," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We've gotten to .500; now the key is to keep going. There are a lot of young guys that didn't experience the terrible season we had last year; the 19 wins is a nice accomplishment, but were looking to do bigger things this season."
Last season, the Hornets went 18-64 amid injuries, dissension and fan apathy in New Orleans. Things got much worse when the team had to vacate the Crescent City due to the damage caused by Hurricane Katrina.
But the Hornets have been rejuvenated in their new temporary home, with West and Paul leading the way. West, a third-year forward bothered by injuries last season, leads the team in scoring (16.9) and rebounding (7.7).
"David is playing like the guy he was at Xavier," Scott said. "Now that he's healthy, he can take over a game when he wants to. Even on nights like tonight where his shot isn't falling, he gives us effort on both ends, and gives us a great 1-2 punch."
The other part of that punch is Paul, a point guard averaging 16.1 points and 7.2 assists, both best among all rookies.
"Besides Steve Nash, I don't know of a point guard in the Western Conference that's played better than Chris Paul," Scott said. "He busts his butt for me and this team, and he is proving to be one of the best point guards in this league."
Paul's 3-pointer opened the fourth quarter and gave the Hornets a 65-62 lead. They never trailed thereafter thanks to West, who dominated the boards with six of his eight offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter.
A drive by Speedy Claxton gave the Hornets the lead for good at 69-67 with 8:54 to go before West sank a jumper converted his third straight tip. He added a follow shot to make it 75-70 with 5:47 remaining.
Baskets by Mike Miller and Shane Battier made it a one-point game before West buried another jumper. After a layup by Bobby Jackson, West again followed his own miss for a 79-76 edge with 2:08 to play.
"I had a rough first half, and I got the technical foul in the third quarter and got real frustrated" West said. "Coach Scott told me that I was going to be out on the floor and it was my time to make shots. I tried to stay aggressive and just be out there fighting and having a knack for the basketball."
West rebounded Jackson's missed 3-pointer. At the other end, Claxton penetrated and kicked it to Paul, who drained a 3-pointer for an 82-76 advantage with 37 seconds to play.
"That three was created by Speedy," Paul said. "I thought he was going to shoot it in the lane, but he kicked it out and the shot clock was rolling down. I had to put it up there."
Claxton had 14 points and eight assists and Chris Andersen added 10 and nine boards off the bench for the Hornets, who committed just nine turnovers and held a 44-39 advantage on the glass.
Miller made five 3-pointers and scored 21 points off the bench and Jackson and Battier added 13 points apiece for the Grizzlies, who have lost three in a row, all to Southwest Division foes.
Brown did a solid job on Grizzlies star forward Pau Gasol, who managed just nine points and was held scoreless in the fourth quarter for the second straight game.
"They double-teamed me almost every time I got the ball," Gasol said. "Obviously, I'd like to have a better night, but give their defense credit. They played real well."
"That was all team effort," said Brown, a very good defender. "I can't take the individual honor of hustle for stopping Pau Gasol. There is nobody in this league that can stop that guy 1-on-1."
Andersen scored 10 points and fellow reserve Rasual Butler added eight in the first half as the Hornets opened a 48-39 lead. The Grizzlies used their league-leading defense to get back in the game in the third quarter, opening a 62-58 lead.
"Their bench had a huge impact in the first half, but we came back in the third quarter and defended well and made some shots," Memphis coach Mike Fratello said. "In the fourth quarter, David West beat us on the boards and that turned the game around."