Hornets Beat Knicks Despite Paulís Absence
New Orleans/Oklahoma City 111, New York 100
OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 10 (Ticker) -- Chris Paul and Stephon Marbury watched the game in suits. The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets had a veteran point guard ready to step in and the New York Knicks did not.
Speedy Claxton collected 18 points and a season-high 11 assists as the Hornets handed the Knicks their eighth consecutive loss, 111-100.
His absence could have been disastrous if Claxton, the backup at point guard, could not come back from a mild concussion suffered in the first quarter Wednesday.
But Claxton played 41 minutes at point guard in his first start this year and directed the Hornets to a season-high point total and a season-low five turnovers.
"It's not like I've been waiting all year to start and prove myself," said Claxton, who recorded his first double-double of the season. "I play the same way if I'm starting or not. We just have to stay aggressive and penetrate, work the screen and roll and run, and we did that tonight."
Meanwhile, Knicks coach Larry Brown showed little confidence in his backup point guard Nate Robinson, who played less than 11 minutes despite the absence of Marbury and finished with just two points.
"Speedy dominated the game, on both ends," Brown said. "He pressured, defended, got the ball anywhere he wanted, got people involved. He was phenomenal. He is similar to Chris Paul. They both like to get out in the open floor and make things happen."
Marbury, New York's starting point guard, missed his fifth straight game and seventh overall with a left shoulder injury.
The Knicks scored eighth straight points to pull within 91-90 after a pair of free throws by rookie Channing Frye with 6:54 left in the fourth quarter.
But the Hornets went on a 14-1 run over the next 4:15. P.J. Brown started it with a short jumper and a 3-point play around a free throw by Kirk Snyder, giving the Hornets a 97-90 lead.
After a free throw by New York's Jalen Rose with 5:40 left, the Hornets scored the next eight points, including a jumper and a pair of free throws by Claxton.
"We run the same offensive sets with Speedy," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "He was a member of a championship team on San Antonio, so we're very confident in him."
A foul-line jumper by David West capped the run, giving the Hornets a 105-91 lead with 2:39 remaining.
West finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Desmond Mason added 19 points for the Hornets, who won for the sixth time in seven games and moved three games over .500 (26-23) for the first time since they were 37-34 on March 25, 2004. Last season, they began with a dismal 2-29 mark and finished with a franchise-worst 18 wins.
"Guys are hungry on this team," said P.J. Brown, who finished with 11 points. "We've got a lot of guys who have been sitting on the bench and don't get a lot of minutes, so they're itching to get out there when they get a chance."
Playing his fourth game since being acquired from Toronto, Rose led the Knicks with 20 points, including 10 in the first quarter. Jackie Butler was one of the other six Knicks in double figures with 13 bench points on 6-of-6 shooting.
"We've got to learn to communicate better on offense and play better on defense," Rose said. "That's what winning teams do."
New York shot 54 percent in the first quarter when it built a 32-25 lead. The Hornets pulled within 59-57 at halftime.
"In the first half we gave up way too many layups and easy baskets," said Claxton, "We buckled down on defense and didn't allow them any uncontested shots or second chances."
A 10-2 run helped the Hornets take a 71-65 lead with 3:10 left in the third quarter. Brown started it with a jumper and West capped it with a layup.
New Orleans increased its lead to 91-82 in the fourth quarter before the Knicks went on an 8-0 run.