Paul carries Hornets past Yao, RocketsJan 13, 2008 - 11:38 PM HOUSTON (Ticker) -- Chris Paul has the New Orleans Hornets looking like a legitimate contender.
Paul scored 19 points, dished out 11 assists and hit the go-ahead layup with 29 seconds left to lead the Hornets to an 87-82 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday.
Paul helped the Hornets overcome a huge effort from Yao Ming, who finished with 30 points and 16 rebounds and gave the Rockets an 82-81 lead with a pair of free throws with 34 seconds remaining.
After Yao's free throws, Paul drove the right side and banked home the go-ahead layup, completing a 9-4 run.
"He was just being Chris," coach Byron Scott said. "We had a chance to win the game and that's when his eyes light up."
"With the game on the line, we cannot let him get those shots," Yao said. "I think I pushed myself too much and that's why he got the quick layup."
New Orleans (26-12), which has won 10 of 12, is one-half game behind Phoenix (26-11) and Dallas (26-11) for the best record in the Western Conference.
"We have that confidence right now, that little bit of swagger," Scott said of the Hornets, who improved to 15-5 on the road.
After a missed a hook shot from Yao, Paul made four straight free throws to seal the win.
"We showed a lot of poise on the road," Paul said. "We've got guys who have been in every situation. When you hear that energy against you (on the road), it just pushes you."
Tyson Chandler, who grabbed 14 rebounds, stripped Yao in the low post on consecutive possessions. The first came with Houston holding a 78-76 lead with 1:57 to play, and the second just 19 seconds later with the game tied at 78-78.
"A superstar is supposed to get calls, and he doesn't get the calls," said Houston coach Rick Adelman of Yao. "That's a huge play."
"He hit my hand and the ball," Yao said.
David West, who paced the Hornets with 26 points and 12 rebounds, scored 16 points in the first half as New Orleans led, 46-39, after two periods.
However, Yao scored four points during a 6-0 run that helped Houston take a 63-58 edge after three quarters.
Scott had pulled Paul, who also struggled by turning the ball over six times, at the end of the third quarter.
"I took him out because I thought he was tired," Scott said.
"I was on the bench, sulking for a while," said Paul of the first part of the fourth quarter. "It looked bad, didn't it? We had struggled and I was turning the ball over. When it gets down to crunch time, we know what we want to run."
New Orleans went on a 7-0 run to take an 81-78 lead with 1:35 to play. Rasual Butler scored his first basket of the game on a fast break and added a free throw to finish off the run.
Yao scored the next four points, but Paul then took over.
Rafer Alston scored 12 points and added seven assists for Houston, which fell to 7-3 without All-Star swingman Tracy McGrady (knee).
McGrady is expected back for Saturday's game vs. San Antonio.
NEW ORLEANS 87
HOUSTON 82 FINAL
Jan 13 4:51 PM
NEW ORLEANS 58
HOUSTON 63 END, 3RD QTR
Jan 13 4:14 PM
NEW ORLEANS 46
HOUSTON 39 HALFTIME
Jan 13 3:33 PM
NEW ORLEANS 26
HOUSTON 18 END, 1ST QTR
Jan 13 3:03 PM
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