Paul Helps Hornets Avenge Loss to Jazz
New Orleans/Oklahoma City 100, Utah 95
SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 25 (Ticker) -- The New Orleans Hornets let the Utah Jazz get back in the game by turning the ball over, but it was one they forced that sealed the win.
After rookie Chris Paul's free throws with 25 seconds left, veteran P.J. Brown made a diving steal on a pass by Utah's Milt Palacio to help the Hornets escape with a 100-95 victory.
"We obviously have to do a better job taking care of the ball. But when you have 23 turnovers and you win the game, that's a plus," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We've got to do a better job of understanding how important that ball is."
Utah got back in the game by scoring the next nine points and eventually forged a tie on three separate occasions - the last coming when Palacio took a remarkable behind-the-back outlet from Andrei Kirilenko and dunked it on the break to knot it at 95-95 with 45 seconds left.
"We started to play a little bit at the end of the ballgame, but it was a little bit too late," Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan said.
Paul, who collected 23 points and eight assists, drew a questionable blocking call with 25 seconds left and made his two free throws.
"D-Will (Utah rookie Deron Williams) tried to tell me at the end of the game that he didn't foul me," Paul said. "We were supposed to run a ball screen, but I just saw (the lane), and I figured if I could get there I might score or get fouled. Fortunately, I drew a foul."
The Jazz had a chance to square it but Palacio made an ill-advised pass to Carlos Boozer, who had six of his 15 points in the final period. Brown stepped in front of the bounce pass and dished it to former Jazz guard Kirk Snyder, who sunk his pair at the line to seal the win.
"We needed a stop, we weren't having very much success on the defensive end," Brown said. "I finally got a little beat on it, finally figured out how to defend Boozer a little bit. ... I saw that (Palacio) was going to come to Boozer, and I just anticipated the play and made the play."
"We buckled down when we had to," Paul said. "P.J. Brown's steal was the play of the game. He really sacrificed his body, came up with the steal and Kirk Snyder made two free throws and put it away."
The victory was sweet revenge for the Hornets, who blew a 12-point lead in an 82-76 home loss to Utah on Wednesday. Hornets leading scorer David West was not at the game as he was with his wife, who had given birth to their child.
In his return to the lineup, West's presence clearly was felt. He scored 10 points in the first quarter and finished with 20 on 8-of-14 shooting and eight rebounds. After Palacio tied the game at 93-93 with 1:45 remaining in the final period, West answered with a dunk to put the Hornets back up by two.
"I felt alright. It was good just to get back out there," West said. "I got going early, so that helped. The guys were finding me, and I was just trying to provide some energy out there, make some plays, help us close out a win."
"It meant so much (having West back). He's our leading scorer," Paul said. "He's a guy that does so much for us offensively and defensively, and just having him out there just gives our team confidence."
Linton Johnson III, playing in his first game for New Orleans after being traded from New Jersey, scored a career-high 17 points off the bench.
Mehmet Okur scored 26 on 8-of-14 shooting, but played less than three minutes in the fourth quarter as Utah rallied with him resting.
"I respected what (Sloan) did because whatever minutes I play out there, I play hard," Okur said. "That was his decision. At the time, Matt (Harpring), Andrei and Boozer were playing great."
Boozer scored six of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, while Kirilenko chipped in with eight points, seven rebounds and eight assists.