New Orleans 100, Cleveland 99

CLEVELAND, March 26 (AP) -- Along with countless assists, Chris Paul has given teammate David West a rather unique nickname.

"I call David West the 17-foot assassin," Paul said.

The Cavaliers now know why.

West calmly dropped a 17-foot jumper -- coming on Paul's 20th and most impressive assist -- with 0.6 seconds remaining to give the New Orleans Hornets their fifth straight win, 100-99 over Cleveland on Wednesday night.

LeBron James' driving layup had given the Cavaliers a 99-98 lead with 7.7 seconds left before Paul and West, the Hornets' All-Star duo, teamed up for the game-winner.

With the 6-foot-8 James guarding him up top, Paul, who had just one turnover in 42 minutes, took an inbounds pass and drove left, picking up a screen near the foul line. Paul then drove deep in the lane, drawing three defenders before spinning and whipping a pass back to West.

West then knocked down his shot on the exact play Hornets coach Byron Scott had drawn up during the team's previous timeout.

"We knew we were going to have a chance to get the ball to Chris Paul and let him create," Scott said. "We knew we were going to get a good look at it. If we got the shot, we didn't want to leave a lot of time on the clock. It was .6 when David nailed it.

"It worked to perfection."

Cleveland got the ball to James, whose 75-foot heave at the horn rattled off the 24-second clock at the other end. James, who barked in frustration at teammates earlier in the fourth quarter, punched his hand in his fist and complained to assistant coach Mike Malone before heading to the locker room.

Following a postgame ice bath, James had cooled way down.

"If we get a stop, we win the ballgame," he said. "We played pretty good defense. We bottled him (Paul) up, but with eyes in the back of his head, he found David West."

Peja Stojakovic scored 25 points -- 18 on 3-pointers -- West added 20 points and Paul 15 for the Hornets, who came in with the Western Conference's best record and improved to 2-0 on a six-game road trip against Eastern Conference teams.

New Orleans, playing the second game of a back-to-back, snapped Cleveland's nine-game home winning streak and improved to 22-11 on the road.

"We're battle-tested," Paul said. "We have a lot of veterans on the team. When we put our starting five out there, I'm the youngest guy on the court. If I'm the one with the least experience, we're in a good situation."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas scored a season-high 29 points with 15 rebounds. James had 21 points and eight assists, but wasn't able to get a defensive stop in the closing seconds against Paul, one of his closest friends. Anderson Varejao added 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers.

Two free throws by James brought Cleveland within 96-95, but the Cavs couldn't get a rebound at the other end and Tyson Chandler's putback dunk put the Hornets ahead by three with 47 seconds remaining.

Following a timeout, James missed a left-handed layup but Ilgauskas tipped it in to make it 98-97. On the Hornets' next trip, Jannero Pargo was left wide open in the corner on another bad defensive rotation by Cleveland but missed a 3-pointer.

James then drove past Stojakovic for a layup with 7.7 seconds left to give Cleveland a 99-98 lead. But the Cavaliers couldn't prevent the ultra-quick Paul from getting deep penetration on the Hornets' last possession, leaving West with enough room to get off his shot.

"When we're in that situation, if he makes it, that's great, we win," Paul said. "If he misses, we still got a great shot."

The Cavaliers had expected to have back guard Daniel Gibson, who has been sidelined since Feb. 20 with a badly sprained left ankle. However, with a favorable break in the schedule -- Cleveland doesn't play again until Saturday -- the Cavs decided to give him and center Ben Wallace, nursing a sore back, more rest.

Cleveland could have used someone to slow Paul, who finished one assist shy of his season high and has 29 in two games against the Cavs this season.

"That's why he's the best point guard in the league," James said. "He gives them a confidence."

With the MVP candidate orchestrating everything for New Orleans' offense and Pargo making three 3-pointers while playing the entire second quarter, the Hornets, one of the league's best perimeter shooting teams, opened a 56-50 lead at halftime.

Notes: Cavs radio announcer Joe Tait broadcasted his 3,000th game with the franchise. ... Stojakovic (1,389) moved past Antoine Walker into eighth place in career 3-pointers. ... Browns quarterback Brady Quinn sat courtsidesat . ... Of all the players in the NCAA tournament, James singled out Davidson sophomore Stephen Curry as the one he's most eager to see play at the next level. "He's a very, very, very, very, very good basketball player," James said. "I don't know if he's coming out (in the draft) this year. When he does, he has a spot."

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