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Paul leads Hornets to first 4-0 start

Nov 8, 2006 - 4:07 AM OKLAHOMA CITY (Ticker) -- Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic provided the home crowd with a second Opening Night win and some franchise history.

Paul had 21 points and 11 assists and Stojakovic scored seven of his 15 points in the final three minutes as the New Orleans Hornets held off several rallies in a 97-93 victory over the road-weary Golden State Warriors.

David West had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Hornets, who improved to 4-0 for the first time in franchise history.

"It's cool, but we are not going to get too excited about this," West said. "As long as we keep picking up wins and keep scrapping games out, they are not all going to be pretty, but the end result is the same."

In front of a sold-out crowd at New Orleans Arena on Sunday, the Hornets posted a 96-90 triumph over the Houston Rockets in their official home opener behind the leadership of 2005-06 Rookie of the Year Chris Paul

"He has such great command of this team and this offense, the young man is special," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "He has great poise out there and confidence in himself and his teammates, and it showed in the fourth quarter."

Playing the first of 35 home contests here at Ford Center on Tuesday, the Hornets jumped to a 14-point first-half lead and opened a 15-point bulge early in the third period before the Warriors, led by reserve Anthony Roberson and Baron Davis, mounted a late charge.

Roberson's second straight 3-pointer with 4 1/2 minutes left gave Golden State an 86-85 lead, its first lead since 7-6 in the first quarter. Two free throws by Andris Biedrins and a breakaway dunk by Davis gave the Warriors a 90-87 edge with 3 1/2 minutes to play.

"We played a lot better in the second half, but we need to start better if we want to win," Davis said. "We got a really good game from our bench, and we shut down their bench pretty well. They did their job, but some of us didn't"

But Stojakovic knocked down two free throws and converted a three-point play after a nice lob from Paul to give the Hornets a 92-90 lead with just under two minutes left.

"(Chris Paul) was getting to the basket and creating a lot of mismatches," West said. "Peja did the same thing; he is not afraid to get to the basket when we need him to make a big bucket. People sleep on his ability to get to the basket, but he does a great job."

After each team came up empty on its next two possessions, Golden State's Monta Ellis turned the ball over on the right wing with 15 seconds to play. Paul split a pair from the stripe with 11 seconds left, but Roberson's 3-point-tying attempt with 9.3 seconds left did not hit the rim.

Desmond Mason and Stojakovic hit two free throws around a 3-pointer by Davis in the final seconds.

Mason had 12 points and nine rebounds and Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Hornets, who held a 21-9 advantage on the offensive glass.

But the Warriors countered with 44 points from the bench, including 17 from Ellis and 15 from Roberson, before dropping their 11th straight road contest to the Hornets.

Davis scored 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting for Golden State, which had played four games in five days and now returns home to play 11 of its next 12 games.

"I think we were a little tired tonight," Golden State coach Don Nelson said. "I think our bench really helped us get back into the game and have a shot to win the game. We just missed every shot we needed and seemed to be reluctant to attack the rebounds after we missed them"

Behind the strength of 14 offensive rebounds and 11 points from Paul, the Hornets held a 52-43 edge at halftime.

"(Offensive rebounding) was definitely the bail-out, because we weren't sharing the ball extremely well tonight," Scott said.

The Hornets scored the first three baskets of the second half - two coming after offensive rebounds - before the Warriors picked up the intensity and used a 17-2 run to pull within 62-60 with 6:18 remaining. A 3-pointer by Davis capped the run.

In the last two minutes of the period, Paul sparked an 8-0 run with two jumpers as the Hornets re-established a 74-64 edge. But six points by reserve Matt Barnes, two buckets by Ellis and a follow by Mike Dunleavy brought Golden State within 77-76 with 8:45 left in the game.

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