for this game

Paul seals victory as Hornets edge Trail Blazers

Nov 15, 2008 - 5:15 AM By Peter Finney Jr. PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The New Orleans Hornets survived a late scare from the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, as Chris Paul buried three game-clinching free throws with less than a second left en route to an 87-82 victory.

David West scored 18 points, Paul had 17 and nine assists and reserve forward James Posey added 14 points, including two critical 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, as the Hornets got back on track after losing three of their previous four games.

The Trail Blazers had kept it close down the stretch, but things looked bleak until Brandon Roy's deep 3-pointer with four seconds on the clock, pulling Portland to within 84-82. But Paul caught the ensuing inbounds pass and raced up the court untouched before the Blazers finally caught up with him and fouled him - by that point, it was too late.

"This is a big time win for us," Hornets head coach Byron Scott said. "I thought the bench was big. I think they brought great energy. I think in the fourth quarter they really got us this victory."

Paul knocked down three foul shots for good measure as New Orleans escaped. But while Portland's four-game winning streak came to an end, it was a coming-out party of sorts for second-year center Greg Oden. In his second game back after suffering a foot injury, last year's first overall draft pick recorded the first double-double of his NBA career, collecting 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"It was his first time playing that many minutes, and when we did give him the ball he did pretty good with it," Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan said.

"I felt good that I finally got my wind back somewhat," said Oden, who blocked four shots and was 3-of-3 from the field and 5-of-6 from the line. "I'd rather have a sorry game and win than have a good game and lose. It was good for me to get out there and get back in rhythm, but I would have rather ended the game with a victory."

It wasn't enough. Scott had been pleading for improved bench production, and reserves Julian Wright, Rasual Butler and Devin Brown keyed a 13-3 run in a 4:56 span bridging the third and fourth quarters as the Hornets turned a 62-59 deficit into a 72-65 lead with 9:05 left.

Posey, a key free agent pickup from the world champion Celtics, nailed two critical 3-pointers within a 2:07 span to ice the victory.

Just before one of his 3-pointers, Posey dove on the floor for a loose ball and shoveled an off-balance pass to Butler to allow the Hornets to keep possession.

"That's how I play," Posey said. "It's nothing new. When I see a loose ball I just believe I can get it. The shots just came in the flow of the game. We've got very unselfish guys. If you're open, you're going to get the ball. We trust each other. In a couple of situations I was open, and they were able to find me."

Portland scored six straight, including a dunk by Oden, to pull within 72-71 with 6:27 left.

The Blazers pulled even at 74-74 on two free throws from Brandon Roy, who was fouled driving to the basket with 3:58 left. But Posey knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing to put New Orleans ahead, 77-74.

Portland narrowed the deficit to 77-76 on Oden's two foul shots, but Posey answered from the arc once again - this time from the left baseline.

"We definitely needed this win," Brown said. "The guys in the second unit came out, played hard and got us in the game. We took them (Portland) out of their plays, which is very important. They had to start running their offense at :10 or :11 on the shot clock, as opposed to having a full clock. I think the second unit did a great job."

Paul added two free throws with 55 seconds left to give the Hornets an 82-76 lead.

Roy answered with a 3-pointer from the right wing with 42 seconds left to bring the Blazers within 82-79.

When Paul missed an arching jumper in the lane inside 30 seconds, the Blazers had a chance to tie it. But Roy was double-teamed in the far corner and threw up a wild 3-point attempt that barely drew iron. Brown grabbed the rebound under the basket and was fouled. Brown buried two free throws with 7.3 seconds left to put the Hornets ahead, 84-79.

"I think the main objective is to be productive and effective, and ultimately win games. That's what it comes down to," Hornets forward David West said. "I felt a little bit looser. We came out, as a team, a little more ready to play."

A 6-6 rookie from Spain, Rudy Fernandez came off the bench to score 25 points in the Blazers' 104-96 road victory over Miami on Wednesday. He then scored eight points in the second quarter to spark Portland to a 44-41 lead over the Hornets at halftime.

Roy led Portland with 21 points and six assists.