Paul, Butler carry Hornets over WizardsDec 31, 2008 - 5:12 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- Nothing came easily for the New Orleans Hornets on Tuesday night - not even Chris Paul's seventh career triple-double. But they'll take a victory any way they can get one.
Paul posted 15 points, 10 boards and 16 assists as the Hornets outlasted a pesky Washington Wizards squad for a 97-85 triumph.
"That's an honor, but the thing that I like the most is the fact that we won," Paul said. "Any time you can do something like a triple-double and get a win, it's great for the team and the organization."
The Wizards came into the game having won a season-high two in a row - including a surprising road win over Houston on Monday - and once again played tough in this one.
A markedly improved defensive effort kept the Hornets out of their rhythm for much of the night. With Paul struggling with his shot, he deferred to Rasual Butler, who scored a season-high 21 points and buried five 3-pointers. Whenever New Orleans needed a shot, it seemed it was Butler who provided it.
With the Wizards holding a one-point edge early in the third quarter, Butler connected from the arc to put the Hornets in front by a pair. A few minutes later, he buried another three as part of a 9-2 run that gave the team a 62-56 advantage.
"They tried to double down on David (West), but when we got in our rotation on the clean swings, I was able to knock down some shots," Butler said.
Paul made just two of his first eight field-goal attempts but found his offensive stroke when he needed it. The All-Star point guard scored nine points over the last 3:48 and found Butler and Tyson Chandler for a pair of dunks to put the game out of reach.
"You've got Chris with the ball, and he has the best vision in the league," Wizards coach Ed Tapscott said of the Hornets. "Then you've got some big guys who can catch around the basket, and then you've got guys that can space you out and shoot the ball for three. You end up picking your poison, and it makes for very tough choices."
The Hornets held leads of 10 and eight points in the first half, but the Wizards rallied back each time. Chandler hit a soft jumper in the lane and made a free throw to give New Orleans a 41-33 edge with 3:03 left in the half, but the Wizards outscored the Hornets, 13-5, down the stretch to forge a 46-46 tie at intermission.
The Wizards knotted it on DeShawn Stevenson's running half-court heave that barely beat the halftime buzzer. The officiating crew initially waved off the shot but reversed the call after reviewing the video replay at courtside. It was Washington's only 3-pointer of the game.
The Wizards, playing without injured forward Caron Butler, got 22 points and 12 boards from All-Star Antawn Jamison but could not contain the Hornets' perimeter shooting.
With the victory, the Hornets completed the month of December with a 10-3 record, an excellent stretch that head coach Byron Scott said they needed because they play 16 games in January - their busiest month of the season. The new year starts Friday night with a difficult four-game road swing against the Trail Blazers, Nuggets, Lakers and Jazz.
"We'll basically be playing almost every other day," Scott said. "We needed a month like this because we knew January was going to be even tougher. We know this road trip is going to be a beast. We just have to be ready to play."
Scott said he especially needs more production from Peja Stojakovic, his designated perimeter shooter who is battling a sore back and hit just 4-of-14 shots Tuesday including just 1-of-9 from 3-point range.
"I hope he has those same 14 looks on this road trip every night, to be honest with you," Scott said. "I think he'll make his majority of shots. You don't see him go 4-for-14 too many times, especially with the type of quality shots he had."
West added 20 points for the Hornets, while Chandler registered his seventh double-double of the campaign with 11 and 11 boards.
The Hornets have won three straight, but Scott isn't convinced they are playing the kind of basketball they need to play to compete against the Lakers in the West.
"I know we have to play better basketball against these guys were going to be playing against," Scott said. "We're still young. We're still obviously playing to the level of our competition at times. We have no way to relax on these four games."
NEW ORLEANS 97 FINAL
Dec 30 10:26 PM
NEW ORLEANS 68 END, 3RD QTR
Dec 30 9:50 PM
NEW ORLEANS 46 HALFTIME
Dec 30 9:12 PM
NEW ORLEANS 25 END, 1ST QTR
Dec 30 8:40 PM
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