Hornets 96, Timberwolves 94
The undercard in the New Orleans-Minnesota sports weekend took place at Target Center on Friday night, and James Posey borrowed a move from Saints quarterback Drew Brees to get the Big Easy off on the right foot.
Posey scored on a driving layup at the buzzer for the second straight game, this time lifting the New Orleans Hornets to a 96-94 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night.
With the score tied and 3.5 seconds to play, Posey took the inbound pass from Chris Paul, faked a handoff to the dazzling point guard and spun past Corey Brewer to score the game winner.
``That was my little Drew Brees play-action to CP and keep it,'' Posey said with a smile.
The Saints host the Vikings on Sunday in the NFC title game. So was this a sign of things to come?
``I think that's a good start,'' Posey said.
The play came two nights after he did the exact same thing with 1.1 seconds to play to beat the Memphis Grizzlies, and was nearly identical to the one the Hornets beat the Timberwolves on back on Dec. 9. On that play, Paul inbounded to David West, then streaked to the hoop and took a backdoor feed to give the Hornets a 97-96 win at Target Center.
This time, Paul went over the top of Posey and took the fake, opening a driving lane for Posey, who converted the tough layup over Damien Wilkins.
``It's amazing we got beat with it twice,'' said Wolves center Al Jefferson, who had 25 points and 13 rebounds. ``It was the same play, different option. Two games, two layups that were buzzer beaters.''
Paul had 23 points and nine assists and Darius Songaila had 13 points and five rebounds for the Hornets, who played the second half without David West because of a sprained left ankle.
Wolves rookie Jonny Flynn's three-point play with 3.5 seconds to go tied the game at 94.
Paul played the final five minutes of the game with his left eye nearly swollen shut after taking inadvertent elbows from Ramon Sessions and Brewer during a scramble for a loose ball.
After trainers reduced the swelling as much as possible, Paul came back onto the court and drained a 3-pointer for a 90-85 lead.
``I couldn't see nothing,'' Paul said.
That was a big reason why Posey decided to keep the ball on the final possession.
``He can't see, so I thought two eyes are better than one,'' he said with a sly grin. ``Even though he has good vision.''
Flynn had 20 points and Kevin Love added 13 points and nine boards after a two-game absence because of an illness.
The Hornets appeared to seize control early in the fourth with a 9-0 run. Marcus Thornton capped it with a layup to give New Orleans an 83-73 lead with 8:26 to go.
But Jefferson led a Wolves rally with a putback and layup, and Sessions scored on a drive to the hoop to cut the deficit to 87-85 with 4:25 to play.
Flynn, who uses Paul as a benchmark that he wants to reach, converted the three-point play after sitting for much of the fourth to bring the crowd to its feet.
Then Posey, who earned a reputation for hitting big shots during Boston's run to the NBA title two years ago, shut them up.
``You have to give credit to us,'' Love said. ``We fought back from 10 down and brought it back and had our chances, but Posey got us on that one.''
It was not immediately clear how serious the injury is for West. He rolled his ankle when he stepped on Brewer's foot late in the second quarter and limped gingerly to the locker room. He finished with 14 points.
``These are the type of games when you look back at the end of the year, you point to and say, 'That really meant something,'' Hornets coach Jeff Bower said.
So, coach, who is your pick on Sunday?
``I predict the Saints will win,'' Bower said.
What a shocker.
NOTES: Hornets sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic wasn't very sharp on Friday. He was 1-for-8 and hit the side of the backboard with one jumper. ... Wolves coach Kurt Rambis, in his first season in Minnesota after spending most of his life in California, said he hasn't purchased a purple No. 4 Favre jersey just yet. ``But my wife has a Vikings beanie,'' he said.