Hornets 102, Rockets 94

David West answered the Houston Rockets’ late charge with power

and poise.

West highlighted a 27-point outing by muscling inside for a

crucial offensive rebound and launching himself back up through

three defenders for a slam dunk with 1:51 left.

He followed that with two clutch free throws to help New Orleans

pull away for a 102-94 victory on Sunday night.

Hornets coach Jeff Bower called West’s rebound of Emeka Okafor’s

miss and follow-up dunk “a key play that put the game away.”

West said he thought Okafor had “a good look at the

basket.”

“I just wanted to be there to give him some support,” West

continued, adding that the Rockets are “really active with their

hands, getting their hands on balls, so I just knew I had to go up

really strong and just try to finish.”

Hornets rookie point guard Darren Collison added 26 points, the

fifth straight game he’s had 24 or more. His driving floater with

34.6 seconds left put New Orleans up 96-89. He added four free

throws and converted a steal into a fast-break layup in the final

half-minute to close out a performance in which he also had nine

assists.

“I’m just trying to attack as much as I can,” Collison said.

“Whatever it takes to win games. If I have to use my speed to get

inside the paint – my teammates are all over me talking about

trying to use my speed.”

Morris Peterson scored 15 points for the Hornets, who led by as

many as 17 but found themselves clinging to a two-point lead with

2:16 left before West turned the tide.

Rookie forward Chase Budinger scored 18 points and Aaron Brooks

added 15 for the Rockets, who have dropped two straight since they

were involved in a three-team, nine-player deal at the trade

deadline last week.

Houston was plagued by poor shooting much of the game. Early in

the fourth quarter, the Rockets were at 36.8 percent (28 of 76),

including 5 of 21 from 3-point range.

Houston made 12 of its last 16 shots, including two of four 3s,

but found its range too late.

“We just have to come together as a team and understand what

the strengths are of each guy and get it turned around,” coach

Rick Adelman said. “Offensively we were very impatient.”

Kevin Martin, one of the Rockets’ new players, had 13 points,

while Louis Scola added 12 points and 11 rebounds.

“It’s like starting over,” Budinger said. “We have new faces

on the team and we are just trying to get used to one another. …

The next few days are going to be very important for us.”

Peja Stojakovic scored 14 points despite an off shooting night

(5 of 16), and rookie Marcus Thornton added 12 points for the

Hornets, who have won two straight.

The Hornets led 74-57 on Stojakovic’s jumper in the last minute

of the third quarter. Then Collison, who had five turnovers in the

third period, turned the ball over twice in the final seconds of

the quarter, leading to a putback and a 3, both by Budinger, who

got the second shot off with 0.1 seconds on the clock to pull the

Rockets to 74-62 heading into the fourth quarter.

Budinger’s baskets turned out to be the beginning of a 13-3 run

that included six points by Martin, pulling Houston to 77-70.

New Orleans’ lead was back to 89-79 after Collison’s driving

floater off the glass, but Budinger hit a 3 on the other end,

igniting a 9-1 Houston run that cut it to 90-88 on Jared Jeffries’

inside basket with 2:16 to go.

West’s final four points made it 94-88 with 1:26 left and the

Hornets held on from there.

New Orleans took its first double-digit lead in the second

quarter and went up 47-31 when Julian Wright threw down Thornton’s

alley-oop lob.

Houston responded with eight straight points highlighted by

Shane Battier’s 3, then Thornton hit his second 3 of the quarter to

put New Orleans up 50-39 at halftime.

NOTES: Okafor blocked five shots in the first quarter. He

finished with six blocks to go with 11 rebounds. … Collison came

in averaging the most assists (8.2) in games started by rookies.

… Thornton and Houston reserve guard Garrett Temple, teammates at

LSU last season, guarded each other at times. … New Orleans is

5-5 since All-Star point guard Chris Paul went out for surgery on a

meniscus tear in his left knee.