Paul dominates Kings, leads Hornets to fourth straight winDec 21, 2008 - 5:40 AM By Peter Finney Jr. PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Even for someone used to gaudy statistical lines, All-Star point guard Chris Paul one-upped himself on Saturday night.
The superstar point guard scored 25 of his 34 points in the second half and recorded eight steals and nine assists to spark the New Orleans Hornets to a 99-90 victory over the Sacramento Kings.
The victory was the Hornets' 11th in 13 games and sets up a major test Tuesday night at New Orleans Arena against the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers. The Hornets are 16-7 and the Lakers, losers of two consecutive games, are 21-5.
"The Lakers, they are only two games ahead of us (in the loss column) for the best record in the Western Conference," Hornets head coach Byron Scott said. "This will give us a chance for them to only be one up on us. All the talk is about the Lakers, Celtics and Cleveland, and rightfully so. We are just hovering around there, and we are getting better each month, and that's the important thing."
Paul went 10-of-15 from the field and added 12-of-15 from the line as the Hornets broke open a tied game at intermission and dealt the Kings their 13th loss in 15 games.
Paul took control in the third quarter, scoring 11 of the Hornets' first 13 points in a 13-6 run over the first 5:49 of the period as New Orleans opened a 59-52 lead. He did most of his damage on slippery drives into the lane.
Paul continued his assault, accounting for 15 of his team's first 19 points in the quarter overall, including 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. He also had four steals that led to six free throws as Sacramento had to foul in the open court and got into the bonus early in the quarter.
"We were smothering the ball screens and that forces guys into tough passes and that just means I have to be in the right place at the right time," Paul said. "It just happens like that sometimes. When guys drive, I just try to have that instinct of knowing when to swipe at it."
Hornets center Tyson Chandler said he is constantly amazed at Paul's quiet leadership and unrushed style, saying his point guard is never in a hurry and rarely forces things.
"Being able to play with him, he makes you shoot for different things," said Chandler, who had 10 points and eight rebounds. "He's just playing the game. He's not out there trying to get 20 assists, trying to score 30 points or trying to get 10 steals. He's just enjoying the game. Then you come back in here and you see those amazing stats. I'm trying to take that in and do that. That's what he does all the time."
Former Hornets point guard Bobby Jackson, who tried to guard Paul, had a rough night. Jackson committed five turnovers, mostly at the hands of Paul. He also couldn't stop Paul from penetrating.
"It's hard to keep him out of the paint," Jackson said. "He's so good at hesitating and getting in the paint. It's hard to guard the guy. When he is on the top of his game like that, it's going to be hard to beat them."
The Hornets took their biggest lead of the first half, 43-33, on Rasual Butler's driving layup with 4:12 left in the second quarter. But the Kings, with two 3-pointers by John Salmons and another by Francisco Garcia, went on a 13-0 tear over the next 3:03 to take a 46-43 lead.
The Hornets needed a 3-pointer by Morris Peterson from the left baseline with less than a second left to tie the score, 46-46, at the intermission. The Hornets' bench outscored the Kings, 17-7, in the first half, but the Kings used 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range in the second quarter to equalize things.
The Kings were led by Salmons, who scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half.
Scott said he is enjoying the Hornets' quiet move up the ladder in the Western Conference standings.
"I like the fact that we've crept up and nobody's really talked about it," Scott said. "We're right back in the thick of things."
Scott said when he compares team records, he looks only at the loss column, and the Hornets are just two games behind Los Angeles in that category.
"Everybody's talking about how great the Lakers are playing, so we must be doing something good," Scott said. "The biggest thing is to keep it going."
The Hornets were able to take advantage of 21 turnovers by Sacramento, while committing just six of their own. James Posey provided a spark off the bench, collecting 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting. However, starters David West, Rasual Butler and Devin Brown were a combined 7-of-27.
NEW ORLEANS 99 FINAL
Dec 20 10:26 PM
NEW ORLEANS 72 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 20 9:51 PM
NEW ORLEANS 46 HALFTIME
Dec 20 9:10 PM
NEW ORLEANS 29 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 20 8:37 PM
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