Chris Paul is the MVP candidate that makes the New Orleans Hornets go, but as with any top-flight point guard, he helps his teammates become more visible.

The Boston Celtics have already seen enough of David West.

West, who had a big game against the Celtics just six days ago, will try to provide an encore on Friday in a rematch in Boston when the Hornets look to extend their win streak to six games in a matchup of the NBA's conference leaders.

The Celtics (56-15) had won 14 of 15 heading into their matchup with New Orleans (49-21) on Saturday, but with Paul limited to 29 minutes due to foul trouble, West, the Hornets' other All-Star, took over. He scored 37 points - 13 in the fourth quarter - and New Orleans rallied from eight down after three quarters to win 113-106.

"David West single-handedly destroyed us," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.

West didn't stop there. On Tuesday night in Indiana, the first game of the Hornets' season-high six-game trip, the power forward had 35 points and 16 rebounds in a 114-106 victory.

He only had 20 points Wednesday in Cleveland, but West provided New Orleans with perhaps his biggest basket of the season. He hit a 17-foot jumper with 0.6 seconds remaining to lift the Hornets over the Cavaliers, 100-99, and move them into sole possession of first place in the Western Conference.

Paul penetrated and drew three defenders before finding his power forward for his 20th assist of the game.

"I call David West the 17-foot assassin," said Paul, who's averaging 25.0 points and 14.3 assists in his last 11 games. "I knew he would be somewhere behind me, so when I saw him, I was like 'thank goodness.'"

West is averaging 28.8 points and 9.3 rebounds in his last four games.

New Orleans is the only team the Celtics haven't beaten this season on their way to the league's best record, but Boston seems more concerned with clinching home-court advantage than getting revenge against the Hornets.

"If it was any other team we would want to win just the same," guard Ray Allen said. "I think as a team we want to win as many games as we can of our remaining schedule."

They crossed the second-to-last team off their list on Wednesday, blowing out Phoenix 117-97 behind 30 points from Kevin Garnett.

Garnett, who has already helped the Celtics win 32 games more than they did without him a season ago, was serenaded with an "M-V-P!" chant late in the game, and has Paul Pierce's vote.

"I couldn't have imagined it a year ago,'' said Pierce, who leads the Celtics with 20.1 points per game. "The whole face of the Celtics turned around when the trade happened with this guy. Everyone talks about MVP, and they talk about numbers, but this guy has changed the whole culture around here."

Garnett (19.0 ppg) and Allen (18.2 ppg), the team's other major offseason acquisition, give Boston one of the top-scoring trios in the NBA, but one of last season's holdovers has helped give the Celtics' backcourt some stability.

Second-year point guard Rajon Rondo has averaged 10.6 points, 5.0 assists and 4.1 rebounds and has started all 67 games. He actually outscored Paul 23-19 on Saturday.

"Rondo has been showing all year that he can stand off with any point guard eye-to-eye he matches up with," Pierce said.

Boston has lost three straight and seven of 11 against New Orleans.


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