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Paul stars again as Hornets rout Mavericks

Apr 23, 2008 - 5:05 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- If Chris Paul doesn't win the Most Valuable Player Award this season, he already has joined some elite company.

Paul collected 32 points and a franchise playoff-record 17 assists as the New Orleans Hornets decimated the Dallas Mavericks for the second straight game with a 127-103 victory in Game Two of their Western Conference first-round series on Tuesday.

"(Paul) has risen his game to another level in the playoffs and that's what great players do," New Orleans coach Byron Scott.

David West scored 27 points and Peja Stojakovic added 22 for the Hornets, who took a commanding 2-0 lead heading into Game Three in Dallas on Friday. The Hornets have not won on the road against the Mavericks since January 1998.

"Where do we go from here?" Dallas coach Avery Johnson asked. "Go home. Home has been good for us. They protected their home court, we have a chance to go home and do the same thing.

"Our men are disappointed, but you'll see a different team in Game Three."

No one on New Orleans' current roster has ever won at Dallas, something the Hornets are not taking lightly.

"We're not blind to (the fact) it was probably Muggsey (Bogues) running the point the last time we won in Dallas," said Paul, who was 10-of-16 from the field and committed just three turnovers.

A leading candidate for the NBA's most-coveted individual honor, the 22-year-old Paul most likely will be edged out by veteran superstar Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.

But he may be saving his best for the biggest stage.

Paul also bested former Hornets guard Bogues, who dished out 15 assists in a playoff game in 1993.

But Paul joined even loftier company in the process, becoming just the eighth player in NBA history to collect at least 30 points and 10 assists in back-to-back postseason contests.

Turning the trick in his first two playoff appearances, Paul joined Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, John Havlicek, Magic Johnson, Kevin Johnson, Michael Jordan and Steve Nash.

Paul, who made a sizzling postseason debut on Saturday with 35 points and 10 assists, picked up right where he left off in this one for New Orleans, which took a 39-29 lead after one quarter on Paul's running 19-foot jumper.

The Hornets shot 71 percent in setting a franchise playoff record for points in the opening period and kept it going in the second as the Mavericks got into foul trouble and soon found themselves over the limit.

Paul and West hit four consecutive free throws for a 67-51 lead with 13 seconds remaining in the first half for New Orleans, which shot 61.5 percent from the floor in the first two quarters.

Stojakovic drilled a 3-pointer with 7:49 left in the third, giving the Hornets an 80-58 advantage. Back-to-back threes by Morris Peterson then New Orleans an 86-62 advantage with six minutes remaining in the period.

"They out-hustled us for some balls, but you've got to give them credit, they were on fire tonight," Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "Paul has his thing going again and the shooters were on fire. They really had us strung out there. We can't give up almost 130 points and expect to win."

Dallas reserve forward Brandon Bass single-handedly kept his team in the game, scoring 13 of his 17 points in the third, including a three-point play which cut the deficit to 90-72.

Jason Terry hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to pull the Mavericks within 99-79 at the end of the third, but Dallas could not get anything going in the final period.

Nowitzki scored 27 points and Josh Howard added 10 for the Mavericks, who did not have another starter score in double figures. Jason Kidd had seven points, eight assists and four rebounds.