Williams Leads Jazz Past Paul, Hornets
Utah 82, New Orleans/Oklahoma City 76
OKLAHOMA CITY, Feb. 22 (Ticker) -- Chris Paul may be the front-runner for Rookie of the Year, but Deron Williams was the best rookie on the floor Wednesday.
Williams scored 17 points and Andrei Kirilenko chipped in 15, 11 rebounds and eight blocks as the Utah Jazz rallied for an 82-76 triumph over the New Orleans Hornets.
"We needed this bad, the next two really," Williams said. "This team right now is in ninth place; we are on the outside looking in. We've got 28 games left and we've got to make a run."
The third overall selection in the 2005 draft, Williams has been overshadowed this season by Paul, who went to the Hornets with the fourth pick.
Paul entered the contest averaging 15.9 points, 7.7 assists, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 steals. But Williams outplayed his rookie counterpart by sparking the Jazz to a spirited comeback in the fourth quarter.
"I like playing against Chris, he's one of my good friends," said Williams, who scored 10 points after the break. "But I really wasn't worried about proving myself against him. I'm just happy that we got the win."
"Deron has worked hard in practice to get him to where he is today," Jazz coach Jerry Sloan added. "I don't think he played against Chris Paul tonight, he played against the Hornets and ran our offense like we needed him to."
Utah trailed, 69-63, with just under nine minutes remaining when Williams drilled a 3-pointer to ignite a 16-2 run.
The Jazz took a 72-71 lead on Matt Harpring's free throw with 6:38 remaining. Devin Brown capped the outburst with a thunderous dunk, pushing the advantage to 79-71 with 1:38 to go.
Williams scored the first six points of the run. Harpring completed a three-point play to give Utah the lead for good.
Brown scored 14 points and Carlos Boozer added a season-high 14 in just his fourth game of the season. The star forward had missed Utah's first 50 games with a cranky hamstring.
"I thought (Boozer) played real well considering he hasn't played in a long time," Sloan said. "We played him a lot in stretches, five to six minutes at a time, and he ended up with 30 (minutes). We were concerned about overextending him, but the 14 points he put up were just icing on the cake."
Paul scored 18 points for the Hornets, who managed just 11 points in the fourth quarter on 2-of-17 shooting.
The Hornets played without leading scorer David West, who has missed two straight contests to be with his wife and newborn child. The Hornets also lost forward Jackson Vroman, who broke his right wrist in the third quarter, and swingman Desmond Mason, who suffered a bruised tailbone in the fourth period.
"Chris Paul can't do it by himself," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "The other guys who have been given the opportunity to play more haven't picked up the slack for us, and that really hurt us down the stretch."
The Hornets also were without guard Speedy Claxton, who is nursing a sprained left ankle. But Scott particularly bemoaned the absence of West, who averages 16.8 points per game.
"We had 35 points in the second half tonight and 32 last night," Scott said. "(West) has been big in the second half for us."
"Yeah, we miss him," Paul said. "He can pick-and-pop all day and he was giving us 20 to 22 points a night. We just have to learn to adjust."
Mason scored 14 points while reserve Bostjan Nachbar added 11 for the Hornets, who have dropped consecutive contests after winning five in a row.