for this game

Paul, Stojakovic help Hornets hold off pesky Knicks

Apr 5, 2008 - 3:53 AM By Michael Nissman PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- On Friday, the New Orleans Hornets did two things they haven't done since 2004 - nearly lose a home game to the New York Knicks and clinch a playoff berth.

Chris Paul continued his stellar season with 33 points and 15 assists as the Hornets held off the pesky New York Knicks, 118-110.

For New Orleans (53-22), the win helped it become the first Western Conference team to clinch a playoff berth as well and extend its lead to 1 1/2 games over San Antonio (52-24), which lost to Utah on Friday night.

"They are really good," Knicks guard Jamal Crawford said. "You can tell they like playing together, you can tell their chemistry is there, they know where each other is going to be on the floor and (that) they trust each other. I think they'll be a good team in the playoffs."

Peja Stojakovic finished with 22 points for the Hornets, who last qualified for the postseason during the 2003-04 season.

New Orleans had to work harder in a game that featured 17 lead changes than most would have expected against the Knicks, who dropped their seventh straight contest.

With the score tied at 87-87 after three quarters, New York opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run over the first 48 seconds to take a brief lead before the Hornets took command for good with a 12-3 run - mostly on the strength of three baskets assisted by feeds from Paul as well as a layup by the All-Star guard to cap the run.

"Tonight was one of those nights when he (Paul) showed how good of a player he is," Knicks coach Isiah Thomas said. "He did everything right when the team needed him.

"He just takes charge of the game with his play-making and passing ability. He is everything you hate coaching against but, at the same time, you love watching him play because he is very special and gifted."

David Lee responded with a free throw and a dunk to cut the lead to 99-98, but Stojakovic finally gave the Hornets some breathing room by scoring 10 of New Orleans' next 14 points that gave it a 113-104 advantage with three minutes left in the contest.

Paul and David West hit 5-of-6 from the foul line over the remainder of the game to hold off New York.

"The Knicks are a tough basketball team," West said. "When we got down by four, the light kind of switched on for us. We clamped down and started helping each other."

Crawford scored 29 points and Zach Randolph finished with 22 and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who shot 55 percent (44-for-80) for the game but could not overcome a 15-5 turnover disadvantage in the turnover department.

"We were careless with the ball," Crawford said of the Knicks' turnovers woes. "We've got to do a better job taking care of the ball."

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