Chris Paul has helped the New Orleans Hornets rebound from a losing streak with back-to-back wins over two of the NBA's best point guards. He'll try to lead the Hornets to their third straight victory against the last team to beat them.
Paul and the Hornets visit the Washington Wizards on Sunday in a rematch of Monday night's thriller in New Orleans.
New Orleans (39-18) matched a season high with three straight losses from Feb. 22-25, dropping games against Southwest Division rivals Houston and San Antonio before falling to Washington (28-30) on Monday night.
Wizards guard DeShawn Stevenson scored a career-high 33 points and made a tiebreaking step-back 3-pointer at the buzzer to steal the 95-92 win.
After the loss, Paul said the only way to bounce back was to win games, and he's helped the Hornets do that despite stiff competition.
The All-Star point guard had 25 points, 15 assists and three steals in New Orleans' 120-103 win over Steve Nash and Phoenix on Wednesday, then delivered 24 points, 16 assists and five steals against Deron Williams and Utah in a 110-98 victory on Friday.
"When you play against the best, it brings out the best in you," Paul said.
David West added 25 points and 13 rebounds Friday, and is averaging 25.3 points and shooting 52.6 percent in the Hornets' last six wins.
"As long as we remain confident, we're able to come up with some big shots," West said.
Stevenson hasn't been able to do that since his career performance against the Hornets. That night capped a 10-game stretch during which Stevenson averaged 17.9 points, but he's totaled only seven while shooting 3-for-20 from the field in his last two games.
The injury-plagued Wizards will likely need a better performance from Stevenson to sweep their season series against the Hornets for the first time since the Washington Bullets won both meetings with the Charlotte Hornets in 1989-90.
Washington has been without Gilbert Arenas since mid-November because of knee surgery, and got more bad news this week when an MRI exam found that All-Star forward Caron Butler has a small labral tear of the left hip joint.
The injury, which has sidelined Butler for nearly a month, had originally been diagnosed as a strained hip flexor. Despite the new diagnosis, Butler's course of action will likely remain the same.
"There haven't been any conversations about surgery," said a person familiar with Butler's injury who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team prefers not to release medical details. "Our thoughts are for him to continue to rest and stay off the hip."
Butler will be re-evaluated next week, with no timetable set for his return.
Despite the injuries, the Wizards have won three of four games. They overcame an 18-point second-quarter deficit by opening the third with a 22-1 run en route to a 97-91 win over Chicago on Friday night.
"We could have easily been negative and tried to do everything on our own," said Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, who had 17 points and 15 rebounds. "But we stayed within a team concept and were fortunate enough to put things together on both ends of the floor."
Jamison was held to 10 points while going 3-for-16 from the field in Monday's win in New Orleans. Paul was 10-for-14 with 22 points and eight assists.
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