for this game

Paul helps Hornets crush Nuggets

Jan 29, 2008 - 5:09 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- If the Denver Nuggets wish to compete against the top teams in the NBA, they must get healthy.

That was proven Monday night as Chris Paul scored 23 points, handed out 17 assists and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 117-93 triumph over the Nuggets.

"The thing is after playing with Tyson Chandler so long I don't really think about rebounding anymore," Paul said of being one rebound away from his first triple double of the season. "They were telling me to run it down when somebody shoots it and I'm just used to watching and letting him (Chandler) get all of them."

Chandler finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds and Peja Stojakovic added 19 points for the Hornets (32-12), who have won nine straight contests and are off to the best start in franchise history.

Denver was already shorthanded entering the contest and it just got worse as the game went on. All-Star Carmelo Anthony missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle and Nene is out indefinitely with a malignant tumor.

"Every time I ran a pick-and-roll or tried to isolate or anything, they had two guys on me," All-Star Allen Iverson said of not having Anthony in the lineup. "It felt like I was in Philly all over again tonight. Every pick-and-roll I felt like I was running for my life."

J.R. Smith also suffered a lower back contusion in the second quarter when he fell and landed on his hip after getting fouled while completing a slam dunk. Shortly after finishing off the three-point play, Smith left the game and did not return until the second half.

"I really don't think they (the injuries) had (any) impact," Nuggets center Marcus Camby said. "The Hornets came out and played a near-perfect game. Chris Paul has been playing some amazing basketball getting guys involved and they're just a really tough team to beat right now."

Denver coach George Karl also had nothing but good things to say about Paul.

"I think Chris Paul is the orchestrater of the team," he said. "He creates great decisions, great shot selection and he has the ability to be a pretty solid defender. He plays both ends of the court at a pretty high level.

"It sure looks like he is the leader of the team and he does it with the right intensity, attitude and demeanor. He is serious about them being a great team and playing the game right all the time."

After the opening quarter, this contest was never in doubt.

Iverson capped a 6-0 run for Denver with a layup at the 2:58 mark of the first to tie the game at 19-19. But New Orleans responded with a 14-0 run before Eduardo Najera knocked down a 3-pointer with one second left to cut the deficit to 33-22 at the end of the period.

The Hornets never looked back from there. Stojakovic scored eight points on a 14-4 burst to end the half as New Orleans took a 63-40 advantage into the break.

The reigning defensive player of the year, Marcus Camby was held to just three points and five rebounds over 27 minutes. With Camby limited, the Hornets dominated the boards, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds and outrebounding the Nuggets, 52-33.

Iverson scored 23 points and Kenyon Martin had 18 and nine rebounds for Denver, which had won two of its previous three contests without Anthony.

"The biggest keys to the game we felt was transition defense, having to get back and make sure that Allen Iverson saw a number of guys," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "The second one was to rebound the ball and I thought we did a good job of both."

Melvin Ely had 16 points and eight rebounds, while fellow reserve Jannero Pargo added 13 points and eight assists for New Orleans, which became the fifth team in NBA history to win seven consecutive games by 15 or more points.

"We want to go in and beat the teams we should beat and against the better teams in the West, we want to use that as a measuring stick and give it everything we got," Ely said. "This win has been carried over from San Antonio. The buzz is still with us. Anytime you can go into San Antonio and win in the fashion we did, we're going to be on top for a while."

David West also collected 13 points and nine rebounds for the Hornets, who own the best record in the Western Conference.

"The main thing the team talks about is continuing to focus on what we have to do and don't lose track of our goals," Scott said. "They hold each other accountable for things that happen on a basketball court. It makes my job a lot easier, especially this year. They have come in with a different focus than they have in the past."

"To be the top of the West is almost unheard of, especially for our team," Paul said. "We're sharing the ball and on any given night you don't know who's going to be our leading scorer and I think that's what makes us dangerous right now."

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