Mavericks
Pelicans
92 - 104 Final
  for this game

Paul shines in playoff spotlight; Hornets rout Mavericks

Apr 20, 2008 - 3:47 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Chris Paul knows how to make a first impression.

Paul collected 35 points and 10 assists in his first career playoff game to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 104-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game One of their Western Conference first-round series on Saturday.

"You know I was really looking forward to this opportunity," Paul said. "I was like, 'I'm nervous and I'm anxious at the same time.' I talked to a lot of people, my teammates and my coaches and they said to just play your game and have fun and let everything else take care of itself."

Tyson Chandler had 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Hornets, who erased a 12-point halftime deficit, outscoring the Mavericks by 16 points in the third quarter to secure the victory.

Paul led the charge in the period scoring the first six points of the quarter and assisting David West for the other two to open up an 8-3 run.

"Like I said with us you've got to choose your poison," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I thought Chris did a great job of being aggressive and we did a great job of keeping our spacing. Our discipline on the offensive end and the defensive end was really good in the second half.

"(Paul) was just making plays. He was just getting in the lane, and that's the one thing he's so good at. It's just a matter of him staying aggressive for 30-45 minutes whatever it is."

The fourth quarter was more of the same for New Orleans, which took its largest lead on Peja Stojakovic's 3-pointer to make it 101-86 with 1:17 left in the game.

While the game already was in hand prior to his shot, Stojakovic effectively placed the dagger into the Mavericks, sending the New Orleans Arena into a state of delirium. But it was Paul who had the fans smiling all night long.

"(Paul) really got it going there in the second half," Mavericks coach Avery Johnson said. "We tried to give him a couple of different looks, but we're going to have to be more sound in our defense.

"We especially can't let him get out of our traps. We got to make him play more defense than we made him play tonight."

The Hornets turned it around on defense in the second half as well, holding Dallas to 9-of-36 from the floor. The Mavericks broke down offensively as New Orleans grabbed three steals and forced Dallas into eight turnovers in the half.

"Between settling for jump shots and turning the ball over ... the momentum swung," Johnson said. "We had the momentum in the first half, they had the momentum in the second half."

A leading candidate for the league's Most Valuable Player Award, Paul made a sizzling postseason debut, routinely going around veteran Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd en route to 15 points in the pivotal third quarter.

"It was pretty (darn) good," Scott said of Paul's playoff debut.

It was the first playoff appearance since 2004 for the Hornets, whose last time in the postseason was when they still were in the Eastern Conference. New Orleans dropped a frantic series against the Miami Heat in Dwyane Wade's rookie season.

The 22-year-old Paul was still in college at that point, leaving him and most of his teammates without much experience in the NBA's second season. It didn't seem to matter in this one.

"I think it (playoff experience) is overrated," Scott said. "I had a team in Jersey, and we didn't have a whole lot of experience and we made it to the Finals. You've got 82 games or you play 90 with whatever you play between preseason and regular season games, and that's plenty of experience.

"It's still basketball. Chris has played almost 200 games, and I think that's enough experience right there."

Paul, who shot 15-23 in the game, converted on a wild three-point play in the third quarter, slicing into the lane to hit an off-balance shot to make it 70-68 with 1:55 left in the quarter. It was the first lead for New Orleans since 11-10 early in the first quarter.

"The biggest thing I've learned about the playoffs in one game is the preparation for it," Paul said. "I think our coaches did an outstanding job letting us know what sets we were going to see."

With chants of "MVP" raining down, Paul motioned to the crowed, telling them that the Mavericks' defense could not hold him down. And he was mostly right, as the burst by Paul and the Hornets led to a 76-72 lead after three quarters.

"Third quarter he just dominated the game," Johnson said. "1-on-1 against us there at the elbow he made his shots. When we tried to double-team him, he split our double-teams which didn't happen the last time we had them at home, so he was much more aggressive tonight."

There might be some lingering bad blood when the series continues thanks to Dirk Nowitzki and West, who faced off late in the fourth quarter. West put his finger to Nowitzki's cheek apparently in an attempt to tell him to knock off the rough play.

"We were just two adults talking," West said. "I said, 'I'll see you Tuesday.'"

Kidd collected 11 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and Nowitzki had 31 points and 10 rebounds for Dallas, which will look to bounce back in Game Two here Tuesday.