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Hornets have Mavs on brink of another early exit

Apr 28, 2008 - 5:38 AM DALLAS (Ticker) -- David West scored 24 points and Chris Paul added 16, seven rebounds and eight assists to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 97-84 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in Game Four of their Western Conference first-round series.

With the win, the Hornets have a commanding 3-1 lead and look to send the Mavericks out in the first round for the second consecutive season on Tuesday in Game Five when the series returns to New Orleans.

"That would be huge. We want to close it out but we know it's going to be a tough game," Paul said. "They're going to throw their best shot, but we're going to be home this time. We've got to come out with great energy and feed off the crowd and hopefully close it out."

Dallas led 30-23 after the first quarter, but New Orleans survived that initial surge and asserted itself starting in the second quarter. The Hornets outscored the Mavs, 25-14, in the second and had a 48-44 lead at the half.

"We just got kind of stuck in that second quarter," Mavericks Coach Avery Johnson said. "They went on a little run there, and then we kinda got back going a little bit and we were only down four or something like that at the half and came out and West just took over in that third quarter. He dominated us, he made shots, they were much more aggressive than we were.

"We went back to our old habits of really not trying to get the ball to the basket and being persistent penetrators and we paid the price."

New Orleans continued to pull away in the second half as a double-double from Dirk Nowitzki was not enough to help Dallas overcome off nights from Jason Kidd and Josh Howard.

Nowitzki had 22 points and 13 rebounds and Jason Terry added 20 points for Dallas, which was the top seed in the West a season ago and lost in the first round to the Golden State Warriors.

Kidd scored just three points before being ejected for a flagrant-two foul midway through the fourth quarter, and Howard was 3-of-16 from the field and finished with six points.

"That's the officials call. I just tried to foul (Jannero) Pargo, wasn't trying to hurt him and they called a flagrant two," Kidd said. "No, no frustration I was just trying to stop him from getting an easy lay up and send him to the free throw line."

Dallas may have played its final home game of the season and this edition of Mavericks has likely seen the end as well if they can't manage a massive comeback. They will have to win in New Orleans twice but have not won a road playoff game since the Western Conference finals in 2006.

"We've got to go back and look at the film, but all season long we've lost leads way too quick," Nowitzki said. "We gave up fast break points, way too many, we left some of their shooters wide open and just didn't have the composure you need there when things got tight.

"Everybody has to be in attack mode. We've got to make shots to win in this league. They doubled team some of our scorers so if we swing the ball on the weak side you still got to make plays and that's what this league comes down to. We shot 36 percent at home, that's tough."

The Hornets also had to overcome a long road skid of their own, but they did so and now have control of the series. New Orleans had not managed a win in Dallas since January 1998 - a span of 14 games - until Sunday.

"Number one, obviously a big win for us. I thought after the first quarter everything that we talked about on the defensive end was special," New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "We really locked in on some of the things that they do. Our rebounding was much better, especially in the second half and our running game got going and that's really probably why we won this game."

They got that win with West and Paul leading the way as usual, with some hot shooting and balance as well.

The Hornets shot 50 percent (38-of-76) from the field and had six players score in double figures.

Peja Stojakovic scored 19 points, Julian Wright and Jannero Pargo each had 11 and Morris Peterson added 10 for New Orleans.

"They really came at us and gave us whatever they had," Stojakovic said. "We had to respond and play the way we did the first two games at home, being aggressive from the very beginning defensively and help each other and play our game. That's what happened."

According to Scott, New Orleans will need West and Paul to step up and the rest of the team to continue to contribute, if the Hornets are going to advance.

"Like I told my guys this (next game) is going to be the toughest game we've had in this series," Scott said. "It's the toughest game in the world to close a team out. So, the good thing about it is we're going to be at home so we've got to come out with an aggressive mind set from the start. They've got a veteran team so it's not going to be easy and we've got to play a really good, solid 48 minutes of basketball."


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