West, Paul shine as Hornets sting SpursMar 13, 2008 - 4:39 AM By Michael Nissman PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The battle for the top spot of the ultra-competitive Western Conference standings got even tighter Wednesday at New Orleans Arena.
David West returned to the lineup and scored 29 points to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 100-75 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
The Hornets' (43-20) win forced the Spurs (44-20) into a tie with the Houston Rockets (44-20) for the top spot in the Southwest Division. The Spurs and Rockets are second in the conference behind the Los Angeles Lakers (45-19) with the Hornets just 1 1/2 games back of the No. 1 seed.
"I told the guys in the locker room that this was the best defensive game we have played all season long," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "Considering what was at stake, I thought it was fantastic the way we played for 48 minutes."
The Hornets jumped ahead 6-0, capped by West's 10-foot fadeaway with 10:10 to go in first quarter. West was making his first start in three games after he suffered a sprained ankle March 3 at New York.
"I was ready to play," West said. "I felt that if those other games weren't on top of each other I could have got back sooner. I thought the guys did a good job of stepping up while I was out, but I was ready to get back into action."
The Spurs rallied back and took their first lead, 14-13, off Tony Parker's layup with 4:45 to go in the first.
"It was like a playoff atmosphere tonight," Hornets guard Chris Paul said. "It was very intense. Elbows were being thrown, and it was a high-intensity game.
"Tony Parker got going in the first half but, in the second half, we did a good job of shutting everybody down."
Tim Duncan and Parker combined for 9-of-14 and scored 23 of team's 25 first-quarter points. The rest of team went 1-of-6 in the opening quarter.
The Hornets went up 35-29 off an alley-oop pass from Paul to Bonzi Wells with 4:40 to go in second quarter. The Hornets forged ahead and built a 48-41 lead at the half and never trailed thereafter.
Paul scored 26 points and added 17 assists for the Hornets, who had 10 players score but only West and Paul reached double figures.
West's layup with 4:09 left in the third quarter gave the Hornets their first double-digit lead of the game, 64-53. He left the court after clutching his ankle but returned shortly after.
"The Hornets are great," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "They played a great game and beat us badly. They shot the ball well, they were aggressive."
West hit a 15-foot fadeaway with 10:47 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Hornets a 82-67 edge. The Spurs never made a charge and pulled their starters for the game's final four-plus minutes.
"They were great defensively," Duncan said. "We had a gameplan coming in, and it just didn't work out for us. They stepped up and made shots Chris and David played awesome. Chris was just unbelievable."
Duncan and Parker each scored 24 points for the Spurs, who were anemic from behind the arc, shooting just 11.1 percent (2-of-18).
"I don't think we played horrible," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said. "We've played worst before, they just executed great. We decided to make Chris Paul make jumpers and he made all of them."
SAN ANTONIO 75
NEW ORLEANS 100 FINAL
Mar 12 10:21 PM
SAN ANTONIO 67
NEW ORLEANS 76 END, 3RD QTR
Mar 12 9:50 PM
SAN ANTONIO 41
NEW ORLEANS 48 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 12 9:05 PM
SAN ANTONIO 23
NEW ORLEANS 25 END, 1ST QTR
Mar 12 8:37 PM
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