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West, Paul lead Hornets to fifth straight win

Dec 30, 2007 - 4:53 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Coach Byron Scott continues to have the New Orleans Hornets flying right under the radar.

David West had 27 points and 15 rebounds and Chris Paul chipped in 20, nine assists and seven steals in helping the Hornets roll to an 86-76 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.

Tyson Chandler also contributed, collecting 11 points and 12 boards as New Orleans extended its winning streak to a season high-tying five games. The Hornets won five straight from November 11-17.

"Winning streaks are nice, but we haven't really done anything yet," West said. "We're just trying to maintain a certain level of effort. If we do that, we'll be able to win basketball games."

"As we gain more wins, we gain more confidence," Paul said. "The more games we play, the more we understand that we really are pretty good. If we do what we are supposed to do and achieve what we are capable of, we are going to be one of the best teams in the conference."

Looking for its first postseason berth since 2003-04 campaign, New Orleans (20-10) is playing some of the best basketball in the NBA to draw within one game of San Antonio (20-8) in the Southwest Division.

"The No. 1 thing I have preached since Day One is that we have to be a good defensive team if we want to win championships in this league," Scott said. "Right now, we are doing that and getting better in all phases of the game.

"We are doing a better job of anticipating and getting to guys. Our rotations are getting better and we are getting more aggressive. We just have to continue to improve week to week."

After holding a four-point lead at halftime, the Hornets opened the third quarter on an impressive 12-0 surge that was capped by Paul's 20-foot jumper to make it 58-42 with 7:48 left.

"At the beginning of every half, our goal is to get stops on defense," Paul said. "We got several stops in a row to start the third quarter, and we were able to push the ball and start running. We got into a tempo that favored us and we rode that to build our lead."

New Orleans shot 47 percent (9-of-19) from the floor in the period to carry a 71-57 advantage into the final quarter, with West and Paul combining for 14 points.

"We came out flat in the third quarter," Cavaliers superstar LeBron James said. "We know how to react; we just didn't shoot the ball well. They were very aggressive. They did a good job defending all my pick-and-rolls. It seemed as soon as I caught the ball, they had me on the ropes at times. We've got to find a better way to attack the double-team."

The Cavaliers tried to make a late run as James scored nine of his 21 points during an 11-5 run to slice the deficit to 82-70 at the 5:56 mark.

But New Orleans - playing in front of its first capacity crowd of the season - was able to hold on for its fifth consecutive win over Cleveland.

"On the road against a very good team in their building, we can't afford to be sloppy with the basketball," Cleveland coach Mike Brown said. "I thought the 19 points they scored off of our 14 turnovers was big for us."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas collected 14 points and 12 rebounds and Drew Gooden added 10 and 10 for the Cavaliers, who were held under 20 points in three of the four quarters.

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