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Paul, Hornets spoil Celtics' tribute to Auerbach

Nov 2, 2006 - 4:01 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets were not affected by the Boston Celtics' glowing tributes to Red Auerbach.

Paul scored 20 points and handed out 10 assists as the Hornets spoiled a night honoring the NBA's godfather with a 91-87 victory over the Celtics in the season opener for both teams.

"We wanted to win so bad, especially days after Red passing," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We wanted to win for the fans, we wanted to win for him. It was definitely emotional. We came out flat and it's unfortunate we didn't get the win."

The coach, general manager and patriarch of the dynastic Celtics teams of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Auerbach died Saturday at 89. The Celtics will honor him in several ways, wearing a special black shamrock with the name "Red" in it on their uniform.

Before the game, there was a moment of silence at TD Banknorth Garden, followed by a video tribute to Auerbach to "My Way" by Frank Sinatra.

NBA commissioner David Stern and Celtics legends Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, John Havlicek, Tom Heinsohn, Tom "Satch" Sanders, Robert Parish, K.C. Jones and Jo Jo White were on hand to help celebrate the memory of Auerbach, who won nine championships as coach and who had a hand in all 16 of the franchise's titles.

However, the Hornets had other ideas. Paul scored the final nine points of the third quarter after Boston had cut a 10-point deficit to 66-65 with 2:35 remaining in the period.

"He's (Chris Paul) a special player," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "There's no doubt about that. We knew they were going to have trouble guarding that pick-and-roll all night, especially when you put him in the center of the court. He got us back to a point, when it was slipping away. He just took control of the game."

The unanimous winner of the 2006 Rookie of the Year award, Paul shot 7-of-14 from the field and added seven rebounds and three steals.

"It was a very emotional night," Paul said. "There were a lot of emotions raging and being the point guard, I just tried to make sure we didn't get caught up in that. I knew that in order for us to have a chance tonight we had to come out and make the first punch. With all of the adrenaline, had they jumped on us early, we wouldn't have had a chance."

David West collected 18 points and eight rebounds for the Hornets, who shot 43 percent (36-of-84). The Hornets also received contributions from offseason acquisitions Bobby Jackson (14 points) and Peja Stojakovic (11).

Stojakovic sank a jumper that gave the Hornets an 89-84 lead with 46 seconds to play.

"I think it was a great team effort," Paul said. "The team talked before the game. I think we're one of those teams that a lot of people have a big question mark beside. They don't know whether we're going to do bad or do well."

Paul Pierce had 29 points and 19 rebounds and Wally Szczerbiak scored 21 points for the Celtics, who shot 40 percent (30-of-75).

Each team missed 15 free throws.

"I saw a lot of positive things about this game," said Pierce, who made just 7-of-15 free throws. "Other than the free throws, we still gave ourselves a chance to win."

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