HEAT lose lead in fourth, come up short against New Orleans, 95-91
By BRETT MARTEL,
NEW ORLEANS (AP) David West and Chris Paul refused to let the Hornets blow a fourth-quarter lead two nights in a row.
West scored six of his 21 points in the last 55 seconds to help New Orleans hold on for a 95-91 victory over the Miami HEAT after the Hornets nearly squandered a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead on Wednesday night.
“We knew they were going to make a run,” West said. “We were able to make some plays and gut this one out.”
Paul had 18 points and nine assists, and Emeka Okafor had 15 points, 14 rebounds and a key block on Udonis Haslem in the final 30 seconds, helping the Hornets end a two-game skid and snap Miami’s three-game winning streak.
On Tuesday night, the Hornets went into the fourth quarter in Houston leading by eight, wound up losing 108-100.
“So much comes down to making the right play at the right time,” Hornets coach Jeff Bower said. “We were able to do that tonight.”
Dwyane Wade scored 22 points for the HEAT, which led 88-87 when Quentin Richardson tipped in Wade’s missed jumper with 59 seconds to go. Richardson made a late 3 to finish with 14 points and pull Miami to 93-91 with 8 seconds left, but New Orleans’ Devin Brown, who scored 16 points, made a pair of free throws to put it away.
“On the road, you’ve got to give yourself a chance to win and we did that,” Wade said. “It came down to who was going to make the last shots, and they made them.”
Paul had nine of his points in the third quarter when he made one of the baskets of the night. After stripping the ball from Haslem on the defensive end, Paul raced down the court, spun into a crowd of defenders and hit a short floater fading away from the hoop as he was fouled by Carlos Arroyo.
“That was luck,” Paul said of the circus shot that brought the New Orleans Arena crowd to its feet.
Paul completed the three-point play, giving New Orleans a 61-51 lead.
The Hornets took their largest lead when Darius Songaila’s jumper made it 77-62 early in the fourth quarter, but Miami suddenly turned the tide with a 10-0 run highlighted by Wade’s transition 3 and Haslem’s three baskets.
With the Hornets desperate for offense, West and Paul got them going again, with Paul finding West for an open jumper to stop Miami’s run.
“Me and D-West know in those situations, that’s when we’ve got to be assertive,” Paul said. “We’re going to go as me and him go and we do a good job of playing off each other. Luckily we righted the ship at the right time.”
Soon after, Paul banked in a 30-foot, bailout 3 at the shot-clock buzzer, putting the Hornets up 82-76.
“That was luck, too,” Paul said. “I make some of those every now and then.”
Miami kept chipping away and the Hornets needed West’s jumper with 54.3 seconds left to regain the lead at 89-88. After Daequan Cook missed a 3 for Miami, West was fouled on the rebound and hit two free throws, then hit two more foul shots after rebounding Okafor’s block of Haslem’s shot in the lane.
“Paul’s bank shot was a big one at the buzzer,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Sometimes that can change the complexion of it. … We fought back into the game but weren’t able to close it out.”
Haslem had 10 points and nine rebounds in a reserve roll. Jermaine O’Neal scored 12 for the Heat, while Michael Beasley and Arroyo each scored 11.
Songaila scored 11 off the bench for the Hornets.
New Orleans led most of the first half and was able to widen its lead with reserves in the middle of the second quarter. Rookie Darren Collison led two fast breaks to perfection, finishing one with a soaring dunk and the other with a pass to Songaila cutting through the lane for a layup as he was fouled. Marcus Thornton capped the surge with a 3, giving New Orleans a 39-28 lead.
Richardson made a pair of 3s late in the second quarter to pull Miami as close as 46-40. Then West, who had 10 points in the first half, scored inside to help the Hornets take a 48-40 lead into halftime.
NOTES: Brown was 4 of 4 shooting in the first half with two 3-pointers and had his only points of the second half on the last two free throws. … The Hornets have won 10 of 11 at home and are 12-3 at home overall. … The HEAT beat the Hornets in Miami in the only other meeting this season. … Miami plays again on New Year’s Eve in San Antonio. … Richardson banked in a 79-foot heave just after the horn sounded to end the first quarter.
Updated December 31, 2009