Hornets 108, Cavaliers 101
Even while giving up 100 points for the first time this season, the New Orleans Hornets still won with their defense.
David West scored a season-high 34 points, and the Hornets held Cleveland to 35 percent shooting and survived a late flurry to beat the Cavaliers 108-101 Friday night.
Cleveland, which trailed by double digits for the first 20 minutes of the second half, pulled within 104-101 on three free throws by Antawn Jamison with 21 seconds left. New Orleans' Marco Belinelli hit two foul shots two seconds later, and Trevor Ariza stole the ball from Ramon Sessions to seal the victory.
Chris Paul contributed 15 points, 10 assists and six steals for the Hornets. Belinelli added 20 points, including 12 during a decisive 18-2 run at the end of the first half.
''That was huge for us,'' Paul said. ''We got aggressive on the defensive end and that got us into transition, and that's when we're at our best. We've won every game with defense this year. That's what we are going to keep hanging our hats on.''
Jamison led the Cavaliers with 20 points off the bench. Fellow reserve Sessions scored 16.
''We showed a lot of character tonight,'' Scott said. ''We got down 18 points and we didn't mail it in. We kept playing and got it to where if we get a couple of breaks here and there, we had an opportunity.''
The Hornets improved to an NBA-best 10-1. Cleveland lost for the first time in four road games under Byron Scott, who coached the Hornets for five full seasons and the first nine games last year before being fired with a 3-6 record.
New Orleans held the Cavaliers to 4-of-23 shooting in the second quarter and zero field goals in the last 5 minutes of the first half.
In the most telling sequence, Cleveland center Anderson Varejao missed three contested shots right around the rim on the same possession. When New Orleans finally grabbed the rebound, Paul fed Belinelli for a wide-open 3-pointer that gave the Hornets a 50-41 lead with 3:09 left.
Belinelli stayed hot, sinking three 3-pointers and three free throws after being fouled attempting a fourth as the Hornets raced to a 62-43 lead at the half.
The second half started with more defense. New Orleans center Emeka Okafor blocked two shots by J.J. Hickson on Cleveland's first possession. Later in the quarter, Paul deflected a pass, Ariza dove to save it from going out of bounds and ended up with a three-point play after being fouled while finishing a lob from Paul.
''We played good for three quarters, Belinelli said. ''I was ready to shoot the ball and press hard on defense. I am so happy to be here. This team is very good, and I'm going to play hard for this team.''
The Hornets led by double digits in the second half until Daniel Gibson's 3-pointer cut the Cavs' deficit to 98-89 with 3:58 left. After West scored inside, Cleveland pulled within 100-96 on a 3 by Anthony Parker, Varejao's follow of his own miss and Jamison's baseline jumper.
West answered with a back-in layup with 42 seconds left. After Sessions hit two free throws for Cleveland, West sank two foul shots at the 24.5 second mark.
''We played mistake basketball in the second half,'' Hornets coach Monty Williams said. ''I thought we were playing the scoreboard a little bit, but I'm not going to complain about a win.''
Cleveland point guard Mo Williams started after missing the previous two games with a strained left groin, but he was ineffective, finishing with eight points and two assists.
Paul dominated their matchup as Scott chose to have the Cavaliers guard him straight up.
''That's the first time I've had the opportunity to play against one of my old coaches, so I was interested to see what the game plan was going to be for me,'' Paul said. ''When a coach is your coach, he thinks you're the best thing ever. But when he plays against you, he obviously has to have a way of thinking he can stop you.''
Notes: Cleveland's Joey Graham was ejected with 11:04 left in the game for a hard foul that knocked West to the floor as he converted a layup. Officials reviewed the replay before assessing a Flagrant 2 foul. A little more than two minutes later, Ryan Hollins picked up a Flagrant 1 foul on West. The Cavs hit 32-of-34 free throws. The Hornets' Peja Stojakovic passed Nick Van Exel for fifth place in the NBA with his 4,279th career 3-point attempt in the first half.