Butlerís Three Lifts Hornets Over Sonics
New Orleans/Oklahoma City 109, Seattle 102
OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 8 (Ticker) -- Forced to play without their floor generals, the New Orleans Hornets were fortunate that David West and Rasual Butler decided to take charge.
West collected 26 points and 10 rebounds and Butler added 14 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter, as the Hornets recorded a hard-fought 109-102 triumph over the Seattle SuperSonics.
In addition, the Hornets were without backup point guard Speedy Claxton, who suffered a mild concussion in the first quarter and did not return.
"It was a heck of a win," said Hornets coach Byron Scott, whose team has won five of six. "We lost those two guys, and you know how much they mean to us and how much we count on them to take the ball-handling duties."
Without their floor leaders, the hosts turned to a balanced attack in which five players scored in double figures. They also took turns bringing the ball up the court and running the offense, resulting in Kirk Snyder collecting a career-high 12 assists.
"That's my role tonight," said Snyder, who also played a career-high 45 minutes. "That's what coach wants us to do. I tried to make as many plays as I could with the ball."
The Hornets took a 100-99 lead with 1:20 remaining when West found P.J. Brown underneath the basket. The veteran forward was fouled and made both free throws.
Rashard Lewis, who led Seattle with 34 points, drilled a shot from the arc 16 seconds later to restore a two-point lead for the Sonics. On the other end, Butler launched a 3-pointer that did not hit rim, but West grabbed the rebound and converted a pair of free throws to tie it at 102-102.
"We were all just out there, pulling together, and that's what we did," Snyder said. "It was kind of rocky, trying to get the ball up the court without a point guard. We had D-West bringing the ball up, he did a great job bringing the ball up."
After an empty trip for Seattle, Butler received a pass from West along the right wing and drilled a wide-open 3-pointer for a 105-102 lead with 15.5 seconds to play.
"They had to rotate to David West because he is such a good shooter from 17 feet," Butler said. "But once they rotated, he saw me and swung it to me in rhythm and luckily for us, I was ... able to make the shot."
Ray Allen, who struggled offensively throughout, missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer from the left wing.
After Brown knocked down two free throws, Allen had his 3-pointer from the right corner blocked by Butler in the waning seconds.
"I knew that Ray is very capable of hitting that shot," said Butler, who recorded three of the team's five blocks. "So I just gave it the best effort I could to try to bother his shot, and luckily, I got a piece of it."
The Hornets scored the game's final nine points en route to sweeping the two-game season series from the Sonics.
"They did what they had to do at the end," Seattle coach Bob Hill said. "They've got a nice team."
Lewis made 12-of-21 shots, including 6-of-9 from the arc, but received little help. Allen scored 18 points but shot just 6-of-21 from the field as Seattle concluded a winless four-game road trip.
"I thought Rashard was special," Hill said. "What I don't understand is how he can get beaten up time and time again and only shoot six free throws. ... He's a great player and deserves to get to the line more."
"We played hard," added Sonics forward Nick Collison, who contributed 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. "We played well enough to win, but we just didn't get it done. Rashard played very well for us, making big shots in the fourth. But they made big plays down the stretch."
West connected on 8-of-18 shots from the floor and 10-of-11 free throws en route to his 12th double-double of the season. Brown added 21 points and Desmond Mason 15 for the Hornets, who won their fourth straight home game.
"It showed a lot of resilience, we showed toughness tonight," Butler said. "We showed a lot of character. Both our ball handlers were out tonight. ... I think it showed we have a lot of character on this team. We're trying to make a playoff push."