92 - 102 Final
  for this game

Paul, Hornets puzzle Nets

Jan 22, 2009 - 5:16 AM By Peter Finney Jr. PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The New Orleans Hornets might have been a patchwork quilt lineup, but it was enough to cover anything the New Jersey Nets had to offer.

Playing without frontcourt starters David West and Tyson Chandler and backup center Hilton Armstrong, the Hornets received 29 points and eight assists from Chris Paul and 20 points and 10 rebounds from Peja Stojakovic to blunt a late rally and defeat the Nets, 102-92, on Wednesday.

Paul played 38 minutes and iced the game in the final minute with a scintillating drive through the lane, a crossover dribble that left Vince Carter in his tracks and a layup leading to a three-point play and a 96-88 lead.

In the final 44 seconds, Paul added two free throws, followed by an inbounds steal and a resounding dunk, as the 26-13 Hornets won their third consecutive game despite being short-handed.

Paul said he is ready to play a complete game if coach Byron Scott needs him to extend his playing time.

"I told coach if he needs me to go 48 (minutes) I can," Paul said. "But our bench did an outstanding job. AD (Antonio Daniels) came in the game and picked up right where I left off. As long as we're missing all those guys, it's going to be tough for us to keep this going, but as long as we play like we did tonight, we'll be fine."

The Hornets outscored the Nets, 49-24, in a 16:24 span of the second, third and fourth quarters to take an 80-64 lead, but Carter helped the Nets close to within 93-88 with 2:25 left.

Carter had a team-high 20 points for the Nets, who dropped their fourth straight game and fifth in six starts.

After turning over the ball on a trap, Paul redeemed himself with his seven-point explosion in the final minute.

Scott said the Hornets will need to continue getting major contributions from bench players because West, Chandler and Armstrong may be out for several more games. Chandler's severely sprained left ankle appears to be the most serious injury and might keep him out for two weeks. West could be out another week, and Armstrong is day-to-day.

"We talked about everybody having to lend a helping hand," Scott said. "It's all hands on deck right now because we can't afford for guys to come in and not play hard and play well. I told them, shorthanded or not, the objective is still the same. We want to win. It's going to take everybody a little extra right now for us to get it done."

Of course, Scott admitted, he's in good hands with the league's best point guard getting unfamiliar players into a comfort zone.

"I don't have a whole lot of sleepless nights with Chris Paul around," Scott said.

One of the pleasant surprises for Scott was reserve forward Julian Wright, who had been averaging only eight minutes a game and had not play in 20 of the Hornets' first 38 games. Wright played 25 minutes and scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.

"He kept himself in shape and kept himself ready," Scott said.

"I've kind of accepted that I have to work hard and earn my minutes," said Wright, who had eight points in the second quarter in which the Hornets outscored the Nets 25-18.

"It takes a little bit for guys to get in an offensive rhythm, so our mindset has to be defensive minded and just getting stops."

The Hornets held the Nets, who have lost four straight and five of their last six games, to 34 points in the second and third quarters and opened up a 16-point lead.

"In the third quarter frustration took over," Nets coach Lawrence Frank said. "We missed some easy shots, we got some foul called against us.

"Unfortunately, Paul made some huge plays late. He is so good."

Third-string center Melvin Ely, who played a season-high 30 minutes, had just six points but contributed on the defensive end with three blocks.

"Today was just defense and blocking out," Ely said. "(Nets center Brook) Lopez has been on a tear as of late. To go out there and hold his numbers down (eight points) was the focal point for the bigs."

Nets point guard Devin Harris struggled one game after he was pulled in the second half of a lopsided loss to Boston on Saturday. Upset by the benching and apparently affected by bruised ribs, Harris hit just 1-of-11 from the field against New Orleans and finished with six points.