West, Posey key late surge as Hornets upend SpursDec 18, 2008 - 6:23 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The momentum swung back and forth like a pendulum all night but, in the end, the New Orleans Hornets got the last laugh.
In a rematch of last year's seven-game, Western Conference semifinal, the Hornets used a 13-0 run in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter to propel them to a 90-83 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.
"I wish we could have done this in Game Seven (of the 2008 Western Conference semifinals), but this is a new year," Hornets point guard Chris Paul said. "I think this team showed a lot of fight without Peja (Stojakovic) and (Morris Peterson). This was a huge win for us."
After the Spurs opened up a seven-point advantage with five minutes to play, David West - the All-Star power forward known primarily for his inside game - stepped outside for a pair of 3-point buckets to pull New Orleans to within one. The threes were just his fourth and fifth of the season, giving him a total of 24 in five-plus NBA seasons.
"We got Tyson (Chandler) up there to set a screen by himself and I just tried to get as wide as I could and it just happened to be behind the 3-point line," West said. "I felt real comfortable. We were at the point that we needed something to happen for us."
Chandler put the Hornets on top for good with a pair of free throws and Rasual Butler connected from short range to push the lead to 82-79. But the dagger didn't come until 40 seconds later when James Posey - who was brought in from the reigning champion Boston Celtics this offseason for this express reason - buried a 3-pointer with just over a minute remaining, all but icing the win.
"New Orleans did a great job down the stretch," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "They had mental and physical toughness down the stretch. They just outplayed us in the last four minutes. They made a couple of good shots, we didn't, and that was the game."
Tony Parker broke San Antonio's dry spell with a 10-foot jumper, but the Hornets put away the game with five foul shots in the last minute.
"We take a lot of pride in our defense. I am very proud of the last four or five minutes," Hornets head coach Byron Scott said. "Everybody's chipping in. It's a great win, but we need to make sure we keep going. It's just a regular season game. December has been a great month for us, though. We just need to keep going."
The game swayed back and forth throughout the night, with the Spurs repeatedly opening up a lead and the Hornets repeatedly rallying right back. San Antonio pulled ahead by as many as nine early in the third quarter, only to see that lead evaporate in a matter of minutes.
Matt Bonner's 3-pointer gave the Spurs a 53-45 edge with just under eight minutes left in the period, but the Hornets answered with an 11-2 run to take the lead back. Paul buried a 20-footer, added a pair of free throws and then found Tyson Chandler under the basket to cut the deficit to just two.
"I think that the thing that started to change was that we started to communicate a little better," Chandler said. "Coaches got on us a little bit. They were seeing some things from the sidelines that we weren't seeing as players and they communicated those things to us and things started to work out."
Eighty-two seconds later, Rasual Butler buried a 3-pointer to give New Orleans the lead - and the seventh-year swingman wasn't done. With the Hornets trailing by one with just over four minutes on the clock, Butler blocked Roger Mason's layup attempt. Tony Parker grabbed the offensive board, but Butler swiped him, tip-toed down the sideline to keep the ball in bounds and completed the sequence with a pull-up jumper to give New Orleans a 56-55 edge.
Paul led the way with 19 points and 12 assists and West finished with 21 and nine.
"Big win, especially when we were down by nine points," Scott said. "We kept fighting, kept our focus. We didn't get discouraged, we knew we had to get some shots and we had to get some stops and we were ready to do both. They are a great basketball team and they are not going to beat themselves."
It was a big day all-around for Paul. The All-Star set a new mark for consecutive games with at least one steal, doing so in his 106th straight game on Wednesday to snap the previous record set by Alvin Robertson in 1986.
Fittingly, the record fell against Robertson's old team.
With 3:05 on the clock in the second quarter, Spurs forward Tim Duncan lost control of the ball under the Hornets' basket. Paul immediately snatched up the loose ball, claiming the record as the local crowd honored their superstar with a loud ovation.
"It's an unbelievable accomplishment, to make a mark in history and especially a record like that. It's tough to do," Paul said. "I'd like to thank my teammates and the fans and I hope we can keep it going."
For comparison's sake, the next-longest streak after Paul and Robertson is Michael Jordan's 77-game stretch, which he completed in 1989. The second-longest active streak is held by Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who has at least one swipe in 22 straight games.
Paul, who led the NBA in steals last season, is on top in the category once again this campaign, averaging 2.8 per contest.
Parker led the Spurs with 20 points and Tim Duncan added 15 and 11 rebounds. Ginobili chipped in 17, nine and five assists.
SAN ANTONIO 70
NEW ORLEANS 63 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 17 11:30 PM
SAN ANTONIO 42
NEW ORLEANS 37 HALFTIME
Dec 17 10:45 PM
SAN ANTONIO 15
NEW ORLEANS 14 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 17 10:11 PM
- Spurs-Thunder Preview May 23
- Thunder will try to bounce back after big loss to Warriors May 20
- 24 teams set for NBA Summer League in Las Vegas in July May 18
- Cavs 9-0 in these playoffs, and joining rarefied NBA air May 18
- Defending champion Warriors expect tough task from Thunder May 16
- Capsule preview of the Warriors-Thunder West finals May 15
- Durant, Thunder beat Spurs and return to conference finals May 13
- Spurs unsure if Duncan or Ginobili will return May 13
- Thunder beat Spurs, advance to Western Conference finals May 13
- How many times has your team changed coaches in the Pop era? May 12
- Spurs' Duncan competing with Thunder, Father Time May 12
- Spurs' Duncan competing with Thunder, Father Time May 11