for this game

Pargo, West propel Hornets

Jan 24, 2008 - 5:05 AM By David Garland PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) - The New Orleans Hornets continue to establish themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference.

Reserve Jannero Pargo scored a season-high 24 points and David West added 22 to lead the Hornets to a 96-81 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at the New Orleans Arena.

Playing their seventh consecutive road game, the Blazers started fast, building a 26-20 advantage at the end of the first period on 10-of-19 shooting. West almost singlehandedly kept the Hornets close, repeatedly taking the ball to the basket en route to a 16-point opening quarter.

"We didn't play our best game offensively," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We got off to a slow start. I thought both teams were a little anxious, maybe a little overanxious, to get this game going. Defensively, I thought we did a heck of a job. We were very focused, flying all over the place."

The Hornets rallied to lead 48-44 at halftime behind Pargo, who scored 15 points and handed out three assists in the second quarter. Reserve Ryan Bowen added six points in the quarter as the Hornets' much-maligned bench scored 23 of their 28 points.

"We just accept it as a challenge," Pargo said. "We're professionals. The guys coming off the bench have been playing well of late. We knew this was going to be a big game. It was like a playoff atmosphere tonight."

New Orleans began to pull ahead in the third quarter, in which it held Portland to just 15 points. Chris Paul, who struggled in the first half, hit a 3-pointer to put the Hornets in front 57-49 with 6:56 to play in the period.

Paul closed the period by hitting a 20-foot fadeaway jump shot at the buzzer to give the Hornets an 11-point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

"At halftime, we came out and played more aggressively," Pargo said. "We forced them into making tough plays. When they missed shots, we got on fast breaks and made the plays."

The Blazers cut the Hornets' lead to 77-72 with 5:29 remaining on a layup by LaMarcus Aldridge, but Paul and Pargo answered with baskets to extend the Hornets' lead to 81-72 with 4:04 to play.

With the Blazers again threatening to cut the Hornets' advantage to five, Paul - the NBA's leader in steals - intercepted a pass and fed Pargo for a layup that restored a nine-point Hornet lead.

"J.P. (Pargo) is a great shooter, and people don't realize that," Paul said. "Down the stretch, we got stops when we needed to, and we executed offensively. When we do that, I think we are one of the best teams in the league. This is a huge win for us because we split with them for the season."

Paul scored on jumpers on the next two possessions to propel the Hornets to an 87-74 lead with 1:51 to play.

Paul scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half and handed out 10 assists for the Hornets, who recorded their sixth consecutive victory.

Aldridge led the Blazers with 17 points and Steve Blake had 15 for Portland, who relied heavily on 3-point shooting, hitting 8-of-26 (29 percent) from beyond the arc.

"They were the aggressors throughout the game," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "In the first quarter, we came out and established ourselves, but they got aggressive thereafter and pretty much dominated the game. We played on the perimeter and settled for a lot of jump shots."

The Hornets outrebounded the Blazers, 41-37. Tyson Chandler collected 14 rebounds to pace the Hornets.

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