Paul, Hornets move closer to Southwest lead
Two starters are out and an All-Star is hurting, but the New Orleans Hornets still have Chris Paul to carry them.
Paul had 30 points and 14 assists, David West added 19 points, and the Hornets moved closer to the top of the Southwest Division by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 104-98 on Wednesday night.
Paul, who has topped 30 points 10 times this season, gave the Clippers trouble all night and helped the Hornets take advantage of turnovers when it mattered most.
"He's got all those jerking moves and he comes off those screens," the Clippers' Eric Gordon said. "It's tough to stop him on every possession. He's a good player and he brings it every night."
He brought it on a night when the banged-up Hornets needed it.
New Orleans is just one game behind idle San Antonio in the Southwest Division and a half-game behind Houston, which lost in Phoenix.
"We understand that the only way we can move up is if we win. That's all we can do right now, is control our own destiny to win games," Paul said.
And how important was this one?
"It shows us how important this road trip was. We're 2-0 right now. We set out to go 3-0 and if we win against Golden State, it will give us our second playoff berth in a row."
Gordon led Los Angeles with 25 and Zach Randolph added 24 for the Clippers, who lost their ninth straight to New Orleans.
Even though Paul was the catalyst for the Hornets, West also played a big role.
He played with a sore left ankle and seemed to be struggling with his mobility at times, most notably when he couldn't catch Fred Jones in transition after a turnover in the third. But he played 44 minutes.
Hornets coach Byron Scott had planned to sit West, who was hurt Tuesday in Sacramento, but allowed him to play because West said the ankle wasn't bothering him.
"It felt all right, man. It was just painful, but I just can't afford to be out right now because we've got too many guys out right now for me to sit down," West said.
"So if I'm out there and I can get some shots, that's going to help us. Coach just said to me, 'If you can go, we'll let you play.' He looked at me every few minutes or so, asking me how I was feeling. The other guys did a good job protecting me on the defensive end and not leaving me out there by myself. So it worked out for us."
It sure did.
West was limited to three rebounds, but provided enough scoring for a New Orleans team missing injured starters Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler.
The Hornets had a 10-point lead early in the fourth, but the Clippers fought back to take the lead midway through the quarter behind a jumper from Gordon, who had 11 in the period.
They went on a 12-4 run and took the lead on Gordon's 19-footer. But Paul took over from there. He scored six of the final 10 points for the Hornets, who are tied for fifth in the Western Conference.
The teams traded baskets down the stretch until Paul hit a 20-footer from the left side of the key to give the Hornets a 98-95 lead.
The Clippers were careless with the ball and the Hornets took advantage of their 23 turnovers.
"Chris Paul leads the league in steals most years. If he is in the neighborhood, you know what his intentions are. You have to either wait for him to clear, or you have to move the ball and make him pay the price for hanging around," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "His quickness and strength is why he is able to get as many steals as he does. In most of those turnovers, we were just too careless."
The Clippers played without the injured Al Thornton (foot) for the second straight night but had chances late. However, Randolph missed a 3-pointer and Gordon lost the ball under the basket with less than a minute remaining.
The Clippers, boosted by the return of Baron Davis, went on a 9-0 run late in the first half. The point guard, who missed two games because of a strained calf and an ulcer, had a behind-the-back pass to Chris Kaman for a dunk and was all smiles even after being knocked down and into a cameraman on the sidelines.
Davis finished with 13 points.
But Paul came back to help spark an 8-0 run that lasted 1:15 and New Orleans left the half ahead 51-48.
Paul, who had 12 points in the first, helped New Orleans take advantage of 14 Los Angeles turnovers.
The Hornets' James Posey missed his third straight game. He was suspended for the first after throwing a ball at a referee and sat against the Kings and Clippers because of a sore left elbow. Posey will be re-evaluated on Sunday. ... West wore an aircast during the game and said he was on heavy meds. ... The Hornets are three wins away from reaching 50 wins for the second year in a row.